In all the reading I had come across during my research for our trip to Canada I had seen one or two mentions of the Royal BC Museum, usually accompanied by a comment something like “worth seeing”. I hadn’t seen anything else on the museum, or read any other opinions, so I had put it into my “maybe, depending on how I feel on the day” pile. Well, I went, I saw, and now I am here to tell you – not only is it worth seeing, I think it is a must-see when you are in Victoria, Canada.
Where is the Royal BC Museum, Victoria?
It is conveniently located right in the centre of town, only metres from the popular sites of the Empress Hotel, the Parliament Building and Victoria Harbour.
Nearly every museum I have ever visited has a natural history section. There are usually a few random stuffed animals and some models of how the local area has changed over time with earthquakes and volcanos and ice ages. Yes, that still exists here at the Royal BC Museum too – but it’s almost not even comparable to the other places.
All the displays here catch the attention with their bright colours and well thought out design. The information provided is in simple language that does not require a science degree to understand. Interactive displays are used regularly to encourage further interaction and participation.
My favourite parts though were the animal displays. They were so well done that I joked that we could take all our wildlife photos here and tell all our friends we were able to get super close to bears and seals and deer. I could also claim I got up close and personal with a wooly mammoth, as the popular full-sized mammoth first put on display in the 1970s is still part of the exhibit.
Local First Nations History
The innovative displays continued with the Local First Nations history section of the Royal BC Museum. We had already visited the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver which is solely focussed on the First Nations people, but there was still plenty here in Victoria that was new and interesting.
As soon as you enter the exhibit there are a whole pile of poles, each interactive, with a button to push to here short phrases in some of the local languages. It was great to be able to hear the native tongues, but just as interesting was the written version of the text. Some of them would be completely impossible to pronounce just be reading as all sorts of extra characters and symbols are used, and each group of people had their own languages.
I enjoyed looking at the full sized totem poles set up in a double-storied central area, as well as the model of an actual village and the many different ceremonial outfits and artefacts of each of the tribes.
The modern history section of the Royal BC Museum is mostly focused on the pioneer European settlers and the industries that made this area grow. The centrepiece is a full sized “Main Street” set up with all the typical buildings from a hotel to a movie theatre, a small Chinatown and a train station. The detail here could not have been better. Many of the buildings could be entered and the rooms were set up as the would have been at the time.
There were also fantastic displays showcasing the timber and gold mining industries. I really thought these were well done with working models and multi-story dioramas.
During our visit in August 2019 there was a fantastic temporary exhibition on the Maya people called Maya: The Great Jaguar Rises. It was extensive, taking up a large, seperate area in the museum. It didn’t feel like a temporary exhibit though, it was beautifully set up multiple areas showing off many aspects of the Mayan life. There were artefacts, jewellery, samples of writing, information on food and food sources, burial and much more.
Due to it’s very nature being temporary, the Maya exhibit will only be in place until December 31st 2019. Early in 2020 there will be an exhibit showcasing Wildlife Photography, then from May until December the temporary space will be home to the stories of the orca in Orcas: Our Shared Future.
Complementing the museum is an IMAX theatre. Here you will find stunning movies played out on the largest screen in British Columbia. Combine your entry into the Royal BC Museum with an IMAX ticket to enjoy both experiences at a good price. For more information on the movies that are playing and the session times, see their website here.
Hours and Prices
Opening hours for the Royal BC Museum change slightly throughout the year. During the winter season (approximately from mid October to mid May) they are open every day (except Christmas and New Years Day) from 10am until 5pm. During the summer season they have extended hours on Friday and Saturday, staying open until 10pm.
Basic adult single day tickets are $27CAD. There are discounts for seniors ($19CAD) and youth 6-18 ($17CAD). Children under 6 are free.
There are also some combination and multi-day tickets available to purchase from the museum itself.
Overall, a visit to the Royal BC Museum during your stay in Victoria is an enjoyable and worthwhile way to spend a few hours.
Want more information on a visit to British Columbia? Try these posts
Five Wineries for Wine Tasting in Kelowna
Best Hostels in Vancouver
Travel Diaries – Vancouver Island
Travel Diaries – Vancouver to Calgary Road Trip
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Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.