Discovering British Columbia’s History At The Royal BC Museum

Last Updated on March 5, 2020

The Royal British Columbia museum was a stop we were excited to make on our trip through Vancouver Island during our first stop: Victoria. We hadn’t been for years and we remembered how much we loved our visit as kids.

The museum is so rich in history. We spent a good couple hours plus exploring the museum and could have even spent longer. The great smooth layout helps you transition from exhibit to exhibit easily, without missing a thing. And, there was plenty to keep the kids occupied and curious about their surroundings.

The Royal BC Museum is well curated with a great display of natural history (one of our favourite exhibits), a section devoted to the First Peoples of BC and an excellent set up of historical fishing, mining and Victoria living . We were also able to witness a couple special exhibits: Family Bonds & Belongings and the Terry Fox Exhibit.


Terry Fox Exhibit

We were very touched by the Terry Fox Exhibit- one of Canada’s greatest heroes.  The exhibit really showcased his courage after losing part of his right leg to bone cancer when he was only 18. He was such an inspiring person and really enjoyed learning more about Terry Fox and his Marathon of Hope, where he ran across Canada in his 143 day, 5,300 kilometre journey to raise money for cancer research. Sadly, his cancer returned and he was forced to finish the run early in Thunder Bay, Ontario, but not before creating a legacy that would continue on today, after all these years. We love knowing that visitors from around the world could now be inspired as well. We especially loved seeing the display of fan mail he had received; a great testament to his great work and determination.

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Family Bonds & Belongings

Walking into this family exhibit, as you can see below, was like walking into a photo album. Here you are shown what it was like for early settler families and immigrants who started their families in BC. It was interesting to see some traditions, how they have changed over the years, or which traditions have stayed the same. It was interesting to compare it to our own families and stories our parents had told us about them growing up in BC. The kids area was a nice touch, with games and a fort to keep them occupied.

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Natural History Exhibit

We love going to Natural History museums when we travel, easily making this one of our favourite exhibits. Everything here was so well done and felt so real. Greeting you when you enter the Ice Age portion of the exhibit is a full-scale Woolly Mammoth. He has become quite the icon of the museum and as soon as you catch a glimpse, you’ll immediately understand why. The Woolly Mammoth is an extinct elephant. It went extinct about 12,000 years ago. Two species of Mammoths lived in BC, along with Mastodons and ground Sloths.



Turn the corner from the Mammoth and you’re taken into the coast forest of British Columbia, from the warm dry hills of Vancouver Island to the misty cool northlands of Haida Gwaii, surrounded by massive trunks of Sitka Spruces, Douglas-firs and Western Redcedars.


Turn the corner again and you’re taken to the seashore. You can take a glance into a tide pool to see what marine life you can find, or take a glance onto the rocks to see a massive Steller Sea Lion; males can grow up to four meters in length and over 1000 kg in weight.

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Ocean Station Exhibit

This exhibit really made you feel like you were in another world in the Victorian-era submarine. It felt very hands on, with plenty of activities to keep the kids busy and kept them wide-eyed. The underwater world is a fascinating place, and so was this exhibit. It was a great view through the through the periscope, port holes and was fun to see the live fish, hermit crabs, and more.

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First Peoples Of BC Exhibit

We found the First Peoples Exhibit fascinating, especially viewing all the totem poles and being able to hear the pronunciation of the different languages in the “Our Living Languages” set up. It was so interesting to hear a greeting in each of the 34 First Nations languages.The carvings are breathtaking. We loved how the exhibit united old and new works, showcasing the continuing traditions of the Northwest Coast First Nations.



Kekuli – Pit house
Baby carriers. How amazing are those!







Male Shaman


Modern History Exhibits

HMS Discovery

This is a full-scale replica of Captain George Vancouver’s H.M.S. Discovery (built 1789). It was amazing to see how the 100 crew members would have had to live aboard that ship!

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A lot of BC’s history was created from the industrial and resource frontier, and those communities that came to be from those who pursued those activities. Take a walk through a sawmill, a mine exhibit and explore the gold rush.

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Old Town

Take a look at detailed examples of BC’s urban history. The Grand Hotel, for example,  is based on Nanaimo’s Royal Hotel (1890). We love looking into the past and getting a glimpse of what the decor would have looked like back then.

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Thunderbird Park

If you have some spare time after your visit to the Royal BC Museum, make sure you walk next door to Thunderbird Park. The park is home to many totem poles and other First Nation monuments. We loved the First Peoples Exhibit in the museum and found it so fascinating that this little walk was a great extension into what we learned in the museum.

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We didn’t want to give away too much about what is behind the doors of The Royal BC Museum, as is really a must for anyone visiting Victoria. There’s a wealth of information there that you don’t want to miss.What a great way for kids and adults alike to learn about the history of British Columbia.

Plan your visit to this fantastic museum. You can find out more at their website here.

Have you ever been to the Royal British Columbia Museum? Any other museums we shouldn’t miss on our travels?


Disclaimer: Our visit to the Royal British Columbia Museum was sponsored, but as always, our opinions are our own.