Future plan for Royal B.C. Museum opened for public input after outcry over lack of consultation

British Columbians can have their say on future plans for the Royal B.C. Museum this week through public dialogue sessions and an online survey. (Mike McArthur/CBC - image credit)
British Columbians can have their say on future plans for the Royal B.C. Museum this week through public dialogue sessions and an online survey. (Mike McArthur/CBC - image credit)

British Columbians are being asked to provide their input into the future of the province's flagship museum after a public outcry halted a nearly $800-million rebuild plan last year.

On Thursday, the Royal B.C. Museum (RBCM) is launching a public engagement process to ensure any future redevelopment of the museum has the support of the public and key interest groups.

The engagement process includes in-person and virtual dialogue sessions, as well as consultations with representatives from groups such as Indigenous and multi-cultural communities, municipalities, post-secondary institutions and people with accessibility needs.

"Through a dialogue session, we're hoping that communities will really step up and share," said Janet Hanuse, RBCM's vice-president of engagement and implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, speaking Monday to CBC's On The Island.

The first two sessions take place in person at the museum —located in downtown Victoria — and are being held Thursday, Jan. 12, at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively.

Royal B.C. Museum
Royal B.C. Museum

The events, hosted by Hanuse and RBCM CEO Alice Dubois, are free to attend and run two hours long. For a list of additional online and in-person dialogue sessions and to RSVP to attend, visit the museum's website.

Hanuse said the sessions will be held until spring, and museum staff will also travel to meet with some interest groups in their communities.

"We're taking this slow. We're not going to rush through the process."

Anyone who wants to have their say without attending a session can fill out an online survey available Jan. 12 on RBCM's website.

Public outcry

The consultations come in the wake of a controversial announcement in May that the province was going to embark on an extensive and expensive museum upgrade that included demolishing and rebuilding the Victoria tourist attraction over the course of nearly a decade.

In the wake of a public outcry over the expenditure, former B.C. premier John Horgan walked back that decision a little over a month later.

Horgan acknowledged British Columbians were unwilling to accept an $800-million price tag for the project while the province was facing a doctor shortage, the increasing cost of living and other critical issues coming out of the pandemic.

"I made the wrong call," he said in June.

WATCH | Former B.C. Premier John Horgan walks back province's initial museum rebuild plan:

After announcing he would suspend the rebuild, Horgan then committed to a thorough public consultation process.

According to a government statement issued in December, the dialogue sessions are the first of a three-phase process.

The statement is vague on details about the second phase but says it will involve "deeper engagement work" informed by phase one. After this phase, museum staff will provide the province with a report that will also be publicly available.

"Following feedback and approvals, the museum will either enter phase 3 (continued engagement) or begin preparing an action plan that advances a revised, public-informed concept of a modern museum."

The RBCM was founded in 1886 after a petition signed by 30 citizens pushed for its creation. The province says updating aging facilities and infrastructure is critical.