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The Royal BC Museum is photographed in Victoria, B.C., on August 8, 2019.

CHAD HIPOLITO/The Globe and Mail

The B.C. government has announced the construction of a new facility to house the Royal BC Museum’s archives, collections and research department. The approximately 14,000 square-metre building planned for the Royal Bay development in Colwood, B.C., is what the government calls “its first major step to modernize” the museum.

At Friday’s announcement, B.C. Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Lisa Beare noted that the museum has not received a major upgrade since it was built in 1967, and the collections have outgrown the space.

“The Royal BC Museum no longer has the capacity to safely store the seven million objects in its collection or the vast B.C. archives. The buildings no longer meet today’s seismic or accessibility standards. We need to act: Preserve and protect this province’s collection of natural and human history,” Ms. Beare said.

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The land was bought for $14-million. The province says it plans to break ground in 2021 and complete the project in the summer of 2024. The project, the minister said, will help the province’s economic recovery from the pandemic, with the construction creating more than 950 direct and indirect jobs.

The main museum will remain in downtown Victoria, with plans on the horizon for upgrades to it as well.

The announcement comes days after The Globe and Mail reported that the museum’s inaugural head of the First Nations Department has revealed allegations of racism and a toxic workplace that caused her to quit.

“There is outright discrimination," Lucy Bell, who is Haida, told colleagues in her July resignation speech. "There’s white privilege. There’s bullying. There’s microaggressions that happen here every day.”

The allegations prompted the museum board to launch a formal investigation and hire a diversity and inclusion consultant, Alden Habacon.

When asked about this at the media event on Friday, Ms. Beare said “absolutely, racism has no place in our province, and our government strongly believes that all people should feel safe when they go to their workplace.”

Museum board chair Daniel Muzyka, who was also at the announcement, added that the formal investigation is under way. “We’re dealing with these issues as they arise and we hope to ensure that it is a safe, inclusive workplace. And that everyone at the museum is acting in accordance with the values that we have.”

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After The Globe article was published, the museum tweeted in response to criticism online that the board asked the BC Public Service Agency to conduct a formal investigation. “The [agency] will report on the investigation’s findings directly to the board for review and action,” the museum said on Twitter.

“This is a critical turning point in the museum’s history, a time for us to reflect, learn and to fully commit to tackling discrimination, racism and inequity in all its forms,” the museum said on its Twitter account.

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