This Royal BC Museum of natural and human history is 130 years old, and is located right off of the TransCanadian Highway at the western edge of the ‘tourist’ area of downtown Victoria, next door to the British Columbia Capitol building. It is a VERY good museum with interactive/experiential display, that make learning more exciting while still protecting the exhibits. I saw something with my actual eyes I never expected to ever see in my life, an actual mammoth.
The museums displays extend beyond the building, to encompass the entire property, and all ingresses and egresses from the building; and this includes some of the doors themselves, which in some cases are beautifully carved; as such, it really is worth while to explore the entire property, and not just B-line it to the front entrance.
Inside the museum (assuming you came in via the front entrance), the first thing you see is the Imax theater, and the adjoining gift shop (which has some REALLY nice stuff with much BETTER prices than I saw for similar items at the local tourist shops). This included a lot of T-shirts, hiking gear, clothing, etc. There are in fact TWO gift shops, on the ground floor, so it is worth it to check both of them out. The one in the picture below is smaller, and tends to have more ‘useful’ type stuff, while the 2nd larger one has more ‘artistic’ sort of things.
Based on my math, if you intend to go there at least three times in a year, the one-year-pass is by far the smartest buy. And since I was going to be living for a full month only a few blocks away from the museum, and expected to see it at least that many times during my stay (rainy days, etc), and maybe even take in some of their IMAX movies, I bought the pass.
The layout of the Museum is more narrow and tall, rather than low and wide, like most museums; as such in order to enter the exhibits sections of the museum (laid out on three separate floors), you need take an escalator — at which point you will be asked to show your tickets and or pass (or the elevators, available for handicapped access). This can be a bit confusing as you can easily spend a full day on just the first exhibit floor (2nd floor of building) and spend so much time there that you end up missing the other exhibits.
On the first floor, just where you exit the escalator, they have the rotating exhibition rooms. When I went it was an excellent exhibit on mammoths that really awed, over whelmed and stunned me. The first rooms taught you all about mammoths, and was very high tech and interactive and interesting.
But the stunner, was after that room you entered a very small and very dark room which included an ACTUAL baby woolly mammoth.. they have named Zhenya.
When you first entered the room, your eyes actually need to adjust a bit, but I assume this is to protect this oh so priceless find… which I’m actually kind of shocked they’ve allowed to go on tour.
Seriously, I cannot overstate my excitement, delight and awe at being able to see in the flesh, an actual woolly mammoth, even if it was a tiny baby. I was completely farklemt.
(I will note, whoever was in charge of curating the display was not particularly careful in setting it up — look carefully at the photos and see if you can pick up the major OOPS!)
In the next room (well lit) there were more interactive displays to help teach kids about the lives of these now extinct animals
Another set of rooms was about the Natural environment of the British Colombia region, and displayed taxidermied local animals arranged into impressively ‘simulated natural’ settings — remarkably natural, some of them even included moving water.
this was followed by a very Steampunk/ Jules Verne, ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea‘ type esthetic, showing off the underwater life of the area.
Another section of the museum is devoted to the human history of Victoria, as a seaport town belonging to the British
Their collection includes George Vancouver’s Uniform, among others
AND — and I thought this was really cool, the “actual” dagger (or at least it’s believed to be) that was used to kill the famous explorer, James Cook.
Alongside these displays is life size “walk through” of the dock, and of a section of a British Sailing ship, with all the appropriate sounds (and some smells) piped in.
This is followed by a small section devoted to the Gold Rush that help make the navel base /trading post into a city, where you can try your hand at sifting gold
(What the sign says: “Wig and Case: within a year of the rush to the gold fields in 1858, British law was imposed. As head of teh law enforcement, Judge Matthew Baillie Begbie was responsible for justice … The wig was just one of the many effects used by the judiciary to impress upon the sometimes rebellious gold rushers that British justice was paramount.”)
In another section of the museum there is a reconstruction of what Victoria looked like back in time, that is again, completely lifesize. You can walk into stores, go into the movie theater and watch a black and white movie, or walk through a hotel and see the rooms.
And then there’s a whole section of the museum devoted to the First Nations (Canadian term for their Native American Tribes, which is gaining acceptance in the USA as well), their languages and their art.