Future for Maritime Museum of BC Remains Unclear

While Victoria’s 2015 tourism numbers are showing big growth, one long-time institution has not been able to partake in this banner year. Last October, the Maritime Museum of BC, housed in an 126-year-old former courthouse at 28 Bastion Square, was closed due to safety concerns put forward by the province of B.C. The province, which owns the property through Shared Services B.C, also asked the museum to remove all of the exhibits by the end of  September 2015 to avoid risk to staff and to assess the state of the building, which it says is in disrepair.
On June 5 the B.C. government announced an impasse after nine months of negotiation between Shared Services BC and the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) to arrange new space for the museum in Victoria’s Steamship Terminal.

Victoria's Inner Harbour
Victoria Steamship Terminal

At a media event held June 19 in Victoria, the trustees of the Maritime Museum of BC announced that they believe the province is unaware of its obligation to find the museum a new home.
“There seems to be an assumption that the only role the role the province has is to try and assist in trying to find another location,” says lawyer Keith Reed, past-president of the Maritime Museum of BC Society. “Their responsibility is to provide another location. Their duty is there because essentially the province is a fiduciary.”
Reed is referring to the 1977 agreement that transferred the Bastion Square courthouse from the City of Victoria to the province on the condition that the province would house the museum in the building “or offer other premises on such terms as may be agreed between them.”
In an email to Douglas magazine on June 23, the Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services said they had recently received documentation that dates back to 1977, which details the agreement between the City of Victoria and the Province for the purchase of the building at 28 Bastion Square and that, “while the Ministry has leased a space to the Maritime Museum for 38 years, this does not compel the province to provide space in perpetuity, nor does it create an obligation for the province’s taxpayers to fund the Society.”
Several communities up-Island, including Nanaimo, Port Alberni and Campbell River have expressed interest if the Maritime Museum of BC looks to move outside of Victoria.
The museum is currently packing and moving their extensive collection into storage.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says the City will try to find the signed copy of the 1977 deal between the City and the province in the archives, but as to whether or not the province is obligated to house the museum, Helps adds, “I’m not going to shake my fist or point fingers at the province.”
Helps says she has reached out to the ministers involved and believes it will take a collaborative effort between the City, the province and the museum.
“Lets find a way to work this out collaboratively,” she says. “The space in the Steamship Terminal didn’t work and that’s fine. There’s a saying that every exit is also an entrance. So, maybe the fact that deal collapsed means we all come together and see if there is another location where the museum could stay. But it has to be a collaborative effort with the province.”