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Million-dollar donation buoys Maritime Museum move plan

Contribution from the estate of Cora Shaw will be used as an endowment to support the museum’s expansion plans for decades, it says.
Chair Jamie Webb at the Maritime Museum of B.C. on Douglas Street. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The Maritime Museum of B.C.’s campaign to land a spot on Victoria’s Inner Harbour gained momentum Tuesday with a $1-million gift that will ensure solid income for the museum for years to come.

The estate of Cora Shaw made the donation, which will be used as an endowment to support the museum’s expansion plans for decades.

“There was much intake of breath when we heard,” said museum chair Jamie Webb of the donation, by far the largest in the museum’s history. “It’s a big signal of confidence from the community.”

The gift comes at an ideal moment.

The museum, currently housed within the footprint of the Victoria Conference Centre, and the Bateman Gallery, which sits in the CPR Steamship Terminal building on the water, have proposed the two attractions switch places.

If it can be done, it would mean the museum would finally get its long-desired spot on the water.

The $1-million gift would help the museum build out an exhibit in the CPR Terminal space as well as ensure income for years.

“We’ll use it like an endowment and that will generate tonnes of additional income for us,” said Webb. “We have a strong balance sheet already, but this is just a real shot in the arm. We have not had a deficit for many years, so the museum’s in a strong financial position going forward.

“This was perfect timing to put this out there and just signal to the province that we’re serious about this, and we’ve got the wherewithal to do it.”

Since news broke last week of the plans to switch spaces, the province has not been in touch with the museum.

Both the gallery and museum are waiting to hear from the Ministry of Transportation, the CPR Terminal’s landlord, to see if the transition plan is workable.

In a statement provided to the Times Colonist, the ministry noted the upcoming $290-million Belleville Terminal redevelopment project will require use of part of the CPR Terminal building as a temporary facility for FRS Clipper and U.S. Customs and Border Protection as the project is built out.

Webb said the museum is so intent on landing a spot in the terminal building, it is willing to be as flexible as necessary to establish a presence there during the construction period.

“We’ve said to the minister that we really want to work within the scope of the projected Belleville project, because we know that’s super important for Clipper and for tourism,” he said. “We want to get a toehold in the building, and then over the next three to five years as the Belleville project completes, we could floor by floor start to [expand].”

The ministry would only say this week that it is aware that the Maritime Museum of B.C. is interested in moving into the steamship building and continues to assess potential opportunities for future use of the space.

With the $1-million gift, the museum has established the J.E. (Ted) Browne and Cora E. (Browne) Shaw Fund.

Webb said Cora Shaw believed in the essential importance of the region’s maritime history and the vitality of the arts and culture sector in Victoria.

Shaw, who died last year at the age of 96, was born in Victoria and lived here for most of her life.

An avid traveller, she served on the executive of the University Women’s Club of Victoria, was a member of the UVic Retirees Association and volunteered at the Swan Lake Christmas Nature Sanctuary.

She was predeceased by husbands Ted Browne (1988) and George Shaw (1997).

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