Sunday, January 4, 2009

Royal BC Museum, Victoria

Woolly Mammoth at the Royal BC Museum
Sunday, after a nice breakfast at Abigail’s Hotel, we walked over to the Royal BC Museum . The museum is located at 675 Belleville Street, almost at the harbor’s edge and between the Parliament Buildings and the Empress Hotel. We had heard that this was a definite-not-to-miss place and we’ll have to agree that it was pretty special.

First, where did the “royal” come from in its name? In 1987 following the museum’s 100th birthday, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, gave it the new name directly from Queen Elizabeth II. Don’t forget that Canada is in the Commonwealth of Nations that each has Elizabeth II as their monarch.

We started in the Natural History Gallery and were immediately wowed by the exhibits. Note the woolly mammoth exhibit has real ice! I think after wandering around there we finally know our Thuja plicata (western red cedar) from our Tsuga heterophylla (western hemlock) from our Pseudotsuga menzieisii (Douglas fir).

Next was the Ocean Station exhibit which was pretty cool. Kids were running around playing with everything and it certainly satisfies them, but there’s a lot for adults too. (I felt a little bad for elbowing out a little kid to look through the microscope, but it had to be done since she was hogging it.) The exhibit was cleverly designed to feel like you were in an underwater exploration vessel.

Next on the list was the First Peoples Gallery which again, was well done. Usually Northwest Native American exhibits always leave me cold (for example, the Seattle Art Museum’s never has worked for us) but here it was very interesting. Maybe because here it’s done through an anthropological lenses and it’s not in an art museum. I found I was reading about different aspects of First Peoples’ life and was truly interested and thought wow, some of this stuff is beautiful, without be told explicitly: this is art.

After an interesting IMAX movie break and lunch at the nice café in the museum, we tackled the Modern History Gallery. Again, it was interesting for sure and well executed, but it felt a little like a strange cross between Disney and Westworld (Remember that movie? Here’s the trailer to jog your memory). I kept expecting Yul Brynner to start chasing us through the streets of the small faux town.
First Peoples Gallery at the Royal BC Museum

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