Royal B.C. Museum opts for entryway nip and tuck

Flushed with success from last year’s Vikings exhibit, the Royal B.C. Museum is treating itself to a quick facelift before hopefully striking gold again this summer.

The museum plans to spend $200,000 over the next few months remodelling its lobby and improving its landscaping.

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The profits from Vikings: Lives Beyond the Legend will help with the cost of remodelling. The exhibit, which closed on Nov. 11, exceeded organizers’ expectations, drawing nearly 238,000 visitors and bringing in 22 per cent more revenue than anticipated.

Museum officials hope to repeat that success in 2015 when Gold Rush! El Dorado in B.C. opens on May 13.

“We had really a great year last year and we’re projecting similar numbers of visitors for Gold Rush,” said Angela Williams, the museum’s chief operating officer, in an interview.

“So we wanted to be able to do some interventions in the lobby and the landscaping that open the place up and make it more vibrant and welcoming.”

Jack Lohman, RBCM’s chief executive officer, told the Times Colonist in 2013 that fixing the “dysfunctional” entrance was a top priority. He complained at the time that it looked “more like a threshold to a shopping mall, rather than an entrance to Canada’s top museum.”

Williams said the planned changes will create a sleek, uncluttered lobby with new kiosks and a “more logical” design.

“All the totems are staying where they are,” Williams said.

The effect, she said, will be a “more refreshed museum because that’s where we’re headed.”

The exterior upgrades will make it easier for visitors arriving from the Inner Harbour to find the museum entrance.

The museum intends to make space by removing pergolas designed by architect John Di Castri and donating them to Colwood.

“It will open up our site, clean it up, give us that opportunity to host festivals,” Williams said. “We just wanted to be able to create the spaces that make the site welcoming, that people will want to come and visit. They’ll intuitively know where they want to go.”

Sandra Russell, Colwood’s communications manager, said the city is delighted to receive the pergolas as a gift.

“We consider them functional public art that we can use,” she said. “So we’re looking at a couple of locations in our downtown area, because we’re looking at making that more walkable and enjoyable, or there’s a park space down near our Colwood waterfront that we’re looking at.”

The museum expects to begin construction soon so that it concludes well before the Gold Rush exhibit opens. Most of the construction will take place after hours, Williams said.

“Our visitors won’t even see it until it’s done.”

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