Royal British Columbia Museum and the Museum of Anthropology – Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Repositories of Native History, Art, and Culture
Regularly ranked as one of the top ten museums in North America, Victoria’s Royal British Columbia is as much fun for kids as for adults and as intriguing to locals as to foreigners. Visitors can walk through the province’s history from the Ice Age (the 10-foot woolly mammoth is a guaranteed hit with children) to its mining and fishing heritage, with lifelike dioramas showing the wealth of wildlife and flora from the mountains to the deltas to the temperate rain forests.
A new state-of-the-art climate exhibit uses satellite imagery, live webcams, and graphic and text displays to explore weather patterns and changes. Perhaps most intriguing is the First Peoples Gallery, which details the history of the region’s several distinct coastal nations before and after the arrival of Europeans, with displays of hand-carved masks, ceremonial garb and headdresses, decorative accessories and textiles, and iconic totem poles.
Directly behind the museum is Thunderbird Park, the largest display of totem poles anywhere. On-site wood-carvers occasionally demonstrate their age-old methods.
In Vancouver, the province’s largest city, museum meisters will assure you that the Museum of Anthropology’s collection of native art and culture is no less stellar, making for a worthwhile thirty-minute trip west of Granville Island to the campus of the University of British Columbia.
Housed in an award-winning building by Arthur Erickson, it’s best known for the cedar sculpture The Raven and the First Men by Haida artist Bill Reid. The jury’s out regarding who wins the totem pole contest – both museums’ collections are remarkable.