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'We have heard you': Beloved Old Town exhibit at Royal B.C. Museum to reopen

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The "Old Town" exhibit at the Royal B.C. Museum (RBCM) in Victoria is set to reopen more than a year after it closed due to "decolonization" efforts and museum redesigns.

On Tuesday, the province said the Old Town exhibit would reopen with largely the same displays on July 29.

Gallery recreations like the saloon, train station, garage, hotel, kitchen, parlour, print shop and Chinatown are "preserved as they were."

A portion of the Becoming BC gallery is shown: (Royal BC Museum)Meanwhile, some displays have been emptied to make space for new exhibits, which will be filled in at a later date with new displays that offer fresh perspectives on B.C.'s history.

"The Majestic Theatre will not feature its Hollywood silent film rotation and, instead, will present historical footage showcasing the diversity of B.C.’s voices and stories," said the province in its release.

The museum has also installed informational panels throughout the gallery that provide greater context to each display.

The panels are intended to encourage visitors to think critically about the historical background of each exhibit, according to the province.

"Old Town is beloved by hundreds of thousands of visitors. I know people miss it, are passionate about it and want access to it," said B.C. Tourism Minister Lana Popham in a statement.

"We have heard you. The reopening of Old Town is exciting news for many who have fond memories of previous visits there, and for visitors who will experience it for the first time," she said.

TURBULENT PAST

The museum first closed the Old Town exhibit in January 2022. At the time, the RBCM said it was to "decolonize" the exhibit and address issues of racism and reconciliation.

The controversial decision was followed by an even more dramatic move in May of that year, when the province announced a nearly $800 million plan to tear down the current, aged museum and replace it with a new facility.

Those plans were met with swift backlash, prompting former B.C. premier John Horgan to shelf the idea.

In March, the province offered a look at its museum redesign efforts. At the time, much of Old Town remained the same.

"We actually could not take down Old Town, it's so full of asbestos behind the scenes," said museum CEO Alicia Dubois during the tour.

Since then, some of the museum's artifacts have been returned to local First Nations, including a totem pole from Bella Coola that had been in the museum's ownership for more than 100 years.

Some of the museum's catalogue is also being packed up before they're moved to a new $205-million collections and research building that's expected to complete construction in Colwood in 2026.

With files from CTV News Vancouver Island's Robert Buffam

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