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Royal B.C. Museum collections building underway after First Nations blessing

The province said it expects the $270-million building to be substantially completed in the fall of 2025 and open to the public in 2026
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Officials took part in a blessing ceremony in Colwood on Aug. 31. The dignitaries included: (back) Jeremy Olthuis, COO at Maple Reinders; Tracey Drake, acting CEO of Royal BC Museum; Leslie Brown, board chair Royal BC Museum; Doug Kobayashi, Mayor of Colwood; Ravi Parmar, MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca; (front) Chief Ron Sam, Songhees Nation; Florence Dick, Songhees Nation; Lana Popham, MLA for Saanich South and Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport; and Mitzi Dean, MLA Esquimalt-Metchosin and Minister of Children and Family Development. VIA RBCM

Construction of the Royal B.C. ­Museum’s new collections and research building is officially underway in Colwood’s Royal Bay ­neighbourhood.

The 15,200-square-metre building, built of mass timber, will house the province’s collections and archives, with dedicated research labs and learning spaces. It’s designed to improve access for the public, as only one per cent of the museum’s vast collection is on display.

The province said it expects the building to be substantially completed in the fall of 2025 and open to the public in 2026.

The capital cost of the ­facility is $270 million, up $45.6 million from the province’s estimate in June 2021, and $93 million over what was presented in the budget in April 2021.

Maple Reinders Constructors Ltd., based in Mississauga, Ont., was awarded the contract for the design and construction of the project.

Reuben Scholtens, vice-president of major projects for Maple Reinders Group, said the company is “committed to delivering a world-class facility that will not only serve as a tourist attraction, but also as a symbol of the deep cultural connections between the First Nations community and the land.”

It’s estimated construction of the collections and research facility will generate 1,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The new facility will ensure the museum’s collections are properly stored and safeguarded and meet international best practices and standards, according to the province.

A statement from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said some of the items in the current archives and museum buildings near the Inner Harbour are below sea level and at risk from flooding, including books and manuscripts, rare and priceless artworks such as watercolours from the 1700s, several paintings by Emily Carr and early provincial maps.

A First Nations ceremony to bless the workers and land was held Aug. 31.

“Following and respecting Lekwungen protocol by undertaking this traditional ground blessing is what true partnership is all about,” said Florence Dick (Nuumtunat), Indigenous liaison officer for the collections and research building, who called the project an example of how all major projects involving the provincial government should be done.

dkloster@timescolonist.com