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Museum of Vancouver prepares for move downtown

After struggling for decades at Kits Point, the Museum of Vancouver is planning to move to downtown and forge a…

By Rumnique Nannar , in Culture , on October 21, 2013 Tags: ,

The bold and small
The Museum of Vancouver cuts a dwarfish figure next to the H.R. Macmillan Space Centre.

After struggling for decades at Kits Point, the Museum of Vancouver is planning to move to downtown and forge a new identity.

“We’ve been talking about it for some years. We’ve come to the conclusion that this location is just not working for us,” said Nancy Noble, CEO of the museum.

“We’re really tucked away in this beautiful little part of Vancouver but it’s hard to get people to come here. There’s no public transit directly to our site and people just don’t really know where we are.”

Noble said that the museum, which now shares space with the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, would have more access to the public and tourists if it moved to a more central location.

The Vancouver Art Gallery space is a strong favourite with its ample storage space and expansive layout, said Noble.

Size matters

The art gallery is raising $250 million to move to a Cambie and Georgia site, leaving their current building, a former courthouse, up for grabs.

[pullquote align=”right”]Museums can be catalysts for the community for the public to think about where they live, the importance of heritage, and restoring a sense of identity[/pullquote]But Noble said the gallery site still needs to be checked out.

“That building does, however, have some weaknesses that we would need to investigate before going further, like leaking roofs and not enough storage space. But you have to balance those kinds of things when doing a site analysis.”

The museum’s plans to find a new site were bolstered recently when it got a $34,200 grant from Vancouver city council. The grant will allow the museum to hire an architectural firm to assess several downtown buildings.

The museum has a vast collection of over 70,000 artifacts and items. Noble is hoping to find a building that would be around 118,000 sq. ft., which the Vancouver Art Gallery can offer.

In spite of its out-of-the-way location, the museum has recently increased attendance with popular exhibitions like Sex Talk in the City, Bhangra.me, and Untold Stories during the past year. The museum almost doubled its revenue from 2011 to 2012. from $444,347 to $872,369.

Noble insists that the move is not likely to faze museum regulars and Kitsilano residents, since there will more engagement services and public transit to a downtown location.

Museums ‘shape community’

Heritage experts say museums and galleries in B.C. are important in shaping the community.

“Museums can be catalysts for the community for the public to think about where they live, the importance of heritage, and restoring a sense of identity,” said Peter Ord, president of the B.C. Museums Association.

B.C. museums often struggle with attendance, because of the province’s scattered population and lower interest in cultural events compared to Canada’s eastern provinces, Ord mentioned.

If the museum does move downtown, it could mean an expansion for the space centre.

“We would certainly like to get more square footage for our exhibition area, but I don’t think we could possibly take over the whole building,” said Rob Appleton, executive director at the space centre.