Maritime Museum's director retiring, but effort to build new exhibit space continues

The Maritime Museum of B.C. will be looking for someone new to lead the push for a new home after executive director David Leverton retired last week.

Leverton, who has been with the museum for five years and spearheaded a partnership with the City of Langford that could establish an $87-million performing arts centre and museum near Costco, told the museum’s board he wanted to step down to pursue other interests.

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“I worked very hard on behalf of the board and museum for the past five years. I am very pleased that we have been able to stabilize the existing operation and I’m confident that the board will find a new executive director that is equally as passionate about the future of the museum as I am,” he said.

Both Leverton and board chair John Clarkson stressed there was no conflict between the board’s vision and Leverton’s for the future of the organization.

“David is a personal friend who has been chatting with me for a year about retirement as he has a personal list of retirement to-dos he wants to get started on,” said Clarkson, who added the board had complete confidence in its executive director throughout the past five years.

Leverton said the strength of the museum is its body of committed volunteers.

“The successful creation of a new maritime museum in the Greater Victoria region will be, in large part, thanks to the continued dedication and support of these [150] volunteer members,” he said.

The Maritime Museum of B.C. has been leasing a small, temporary space in downtown Victoria since it was forced to leave its home in Bastion Square in 2015. It operates from 3,000 square feet at 634 Humboldt St., meaning most of its 35,000-artifact collection is in climate-controlled storage supplied by the province.

That collection includes First Nations history and 10,000 years of marine heritage.

The museum is hoping to build a new 80,000-square-foot space on McCallum Road in Langford.

It would be part of a complex that includes a 1,200-seat performing arts theatre, conference centre and office tower.

Langford has agreed to provide the land and services and pay for the $30-million theatre through fundraising and amenity fees charged to developers.

The museum would be responsible for financing the $57-million exhibit space.

When it was announced more than a year ago, Leverton said the museum would be approaching the federal government and other potential grant providers to discuss funding.

The museum would be responsible for leasing out the office tower of the new complex, which would provide a steady income and the chance to establish a long-term, sustainable business model.

“For the last five years, David Leverton has been a tireless worker in preserving and presenting the rich maritime history of British Columbia. His enthusiasm and passion were evident from our very first meeting and has maintained to this day,” said Don Prittie, past chair of the museum. “While David’s knowledge and experience will be sorely missed, he leaves behind a small and dedicated team to carry on the important work of the MMBC.”

Leverton said he is working on a new book.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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