Five things to do at Royal B.C. Museum: all of British Columbia in one place

A man looks at winning photos part of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit on until April 2, 2018 at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, December 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
A man looks at winning photos part of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit on until April 2, 2018 at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, December 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

VICTORIA - Walk into the Royal British Columbia Museum and find yourself staring deep into the heart and soul of Canada's western-most province through the darkened hues of an Emily Carr rainforest canvass or the psychedelic paint job on John Lennon's Rolls Royce.

"It's probably one of the best places to get a sense of all of B.C. in one place," says Erik Lambertson, the museum's communications manager. "All of B.C.'s natural and human history is captured there."

The museum, founded in 1886, is also home to the provincial archives where visitors can examine colonial documents, Indigenous treaties and the personal diaries of Gold Rush miners.

Here are five things to see at the Royal B.C. Museum:

Archives: "One of our main purposes here is access," says archivist Genevieve Weber about the area that is open daily and on evenings. "People have this strange notion we're trying to hide things away."

View the work of Vancouver ethnomusicologist Ida Halpern, who travelled to West Coast Indigenous communities in the 1940s and recorded traditional songs, chants and prayers.

Halpern's work is one of Canada's submissions to the UN's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's Memory of the World Program. It was launched to safeguard documentary heritage "against collective amnesia, neglect, the ravages of time and climatic conditions, and wilful and deliberate destruction."

Human History: Among the thousands of tools, blankets and household items depicting the lives of people in British Columbia, a small slab of a plaster wall is the favourite of Tzu-I Chung, the museum's curator of history.

Written on the plaster are poems by Chinese immigrants detained in Victoria at the federal Immigration Detention Hospital while they awaited entry to Canada. The poems, dated 1911 and 1919, express aspirations for the new land and anger over being detained.

"This is a Canadian treasure that has so much providence beyond our border," Chung says.

The building, near Victoria's waterfront, was demolished in 1977, and the plaster and poems are all that remain.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year: "People just love coming in here and staring," says Lambertson.

The exhibit showcases 100 of the most stunning wildlife images from around the world.

This year's winning photo is by Brent Stirton. It's a chilling image of a dead black rhinoceros, a victim of poachers in South Africa. It was left to rot with its horns sawed off.

IMAX Theatre: "What you get with laser, that you don't get with film, believe it or not, you get a bigger colour array," says Paul Wild, the museum's IMAX theatre director. "You actually get fuller colour. You get those inky blacks."

The museum is home to the largest IMAX screen in British Columbia, measuring 18.59 metres by 25.9 metres. The state-of-the-art IMAX laser 4K projection technology and 12-channel sound system, installed last year, is one of only 35 such systems in the world.

Nature and travel documentaries are the theatre's movie staples, but it also screens second-run Hollywood films, with Star Trek, Star Wars and Batman movies bringing up to 400,000 moviegoers annually.

Upcoming Egypt exhibit: Egypt: Time of the Pharaohs will be the museum's feature exhibition in 2018, running from May 18 to Dec. 31.

With more than 300 original artifacts, some 4,500 years old, the exhibition covers all aspects of ancient Egyptian life, from the emergence of Egyptian civilization along the Nile to the Ptolemaic and Roman eras.

IF YOU GO:

Directions, costs, hours and other information is at royalbcmuseum.bc.ca.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved. 2017

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