Best known for its rainy days, it’s no wonder Vancouver has an amazing selection of museums to explore when the water starts whipping at your windows and the grey days seem endless. So the next time you feel like cozying up with a warm blanket and a cup of tea, consider stepping into the past at one of our city’s interesting historical institutions.
The Museum of Anthropology by Dave Shea
At The University Of British Columbia:
UBC Museum of Anthropology
Address: 6393 NW Marine Drive
The UBC Museum of Anthropology is beautifully situated on the UBC Endowment Lands at the edge of Pacific Spirit Park, a lush, green rainforest that’s home to hiking and biking trails, as well as striking cliffs and stunning beaches. The building itself is an architectural marvel, and inside you’ll find over half a million ethnographic objects from around the world with a focus on Asian and North American Indigenous peoples. It boasts "one of the world’s finest displays of Northwest Coast First Nations art."
The Museum of Anthropology by Guilhem Vellut
Another of the UBC Museum of Anthropology’s virtues is its commitment to providing a respectful and unbiased representation of the histories of the Indigenous groups featured in its collection, aiming to present their customs and values without the "western-centric" lens. If you’re looking for a truly authentic experience about global culture and history, this museum should be at the top of your list.
According to one visitor
the Museum of Anthropology occupies a unique place in Canadian society in that it is one of the few institutions that offers a keen insight into the beauty of the history and culture of the incredibly diverse Indigenous peoples.
UBC Museum of Anthropology by MandyJ
TIP: Consider visiting the museum in the afternoon and sticking around to catch the sunset. It’s situated on a cliff and if the blackberry bushes haven’t grown over, there’s a beautiful view. Also, the stunning Coast Salish Totem Poles out around the back look amazing at twilight.
Beaty Biodiversity Museum
Address: 2212 Main Mall, Vancouver BC
A Blue Whale in the Beaty Biodiversity Museum by Jock Rutherford
Also located on the University of British Columbia campus is the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, a nearly new museum that has a collection of over two million specimens. The collection features specimens collected between 1910 right up to the present, with a focus on species that are local to the Pacific Northwest and the Yukon Territory. Most striking is the twenty-five metre long skeleton of a blue whale which hangs near the entrance. If you’re excited about whales and other aquatic mammals, the UBC Fisheries Centre is just across the street and features several smaller skeletons of different whale and dolphin species.
The staff are extremely friendly. One volunteer was very excited to show me an eye dissection (his first one I found out later). There is a plethora of specimens, text is light and many times reflective of human relations that keeps it relevant and interesting for even non-science types,
one of the museum visitors stated.
The Beaty Biodiversity Museum by Miguel Garcia
Additionally, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum has a story time for children and a small collection of interpretive exhibits with some specimens that visitors can touch. If science isn’t your specialty, I’d recommend getting a free tour.
Near Jericho Beach:
The Old Hastings Mill Store Museum
Address: 1575 Alma Street
Reception: 604. 734. 1212
The Hastings Mill Store by Jasperdo
While not a giant museum, the Old Hastings Mill Museum is the oldest building in Vancouver and hosts an eclectic collection of artifacts and stories from pre-1900. Rumours of a ghost from the Great Vancouver 1886 Fire also run rampant through its creaking foundation. The building itself doesn’t sit on its original location, but it’s a short walk from Jericho Beach and a fun idea for a historical side trip during your trip to the water’s edge. The museum is wheelchair accessible and its gift shop has a selection of First Nations carvings and vintage jewelry.
Near Kitsilano Beach:
Museum of Vancouver
Address: 1100 Chestnut Street, Vancouver BC
Reception: 604. 736. 4431
Museum of Vancouver by Guilhem Vellut
Less than five minutes from the Vancouver Maritime Museum is the Museum of Vancouver, a city-specific museum with an aim to "connect Vancouverites to each other and to connect Vancouver to the world." In other words, this museum is all about local history and placing that history in the context of the globe. The permanent exhibits at the Museum of Vancouver focus on telling the city’s whole story, with exhibits featuring information about its Musquem beginnings as well as a focus on Vancouver’s responses to the World Wars. There’s even an exhibit about neon signs from Vancouver’s past. Apparently, at one point, there were over 19,000 in the city and there was a battle over their place in a city known for being so naturally beautiful. That might be the most Vancouver controversy ever!
Museum of Vancouver by Kenny Louie
Myles Constable, a Museum employee says:
It’s a great orientation place. Somebody who’s new to the city whether they’ve just moved here or they’re visiting, it introduces them to Vancouver. What is the history of the city? Our permanent exhibitions tell this story.
TIP: If you’re visiting the museum with your family, don’t forget to grab a self-guided tour worksheet which will add another dimension of fun to your visit, sending kids on an info scavenger hunt and providing added facts and topics of conversation inspired by the exhibits.
Vancouver Maritime Museum
Address: 1905 Ogden Avenue, Vancouver, BC
Reception: 604. 257. 8300
The Vancouver Maritime Museum by Robert Ciavarro
Just steps away from Vancouver’s beautiful Kitsilano Beach is the Vancouver Maritime Museum, a must-visit for any fans of human sea activities and their history. This museum has a particular focus on the local maritime history of the Pacific Northwest and the Arctic. Any nautical fan would be excited by their large collection of model ships; an exhibit on a historic arctic exploration vessel used by the RCMP, the St. Roch, which the museum is actually built around; as well as original hand-drawn charts from Captain Cook himself.
The Vancouver Maritime Museum by Colin Knowles
"This is a great way to spend a rainy winter Sunday afternoon" said one museum visitor. "The collection of the museum is very eclectic and interesting but the main attraction is the tour of the St. Roch."
The museum also has a Children’s Discovery Centre and a dedicated volunteer staff who are available to answer questions and talk history. Check the website for information about their unique workshops on building ship models.
TIP: Consider bundling your trips to the museum. A joint ticket for the Museum of Vancouver, The Vancouver Maritime Museum, and the HR Macmillan Space Centre is available.
In the Downtown Eastside:
Vancouver Police Museum
Address: 240 East Cordova Street, Vancouver BC
Reception: 604. 665. 3346
A touch of grim by Kenny Louie
Possibly Vancouver’s most underrated museum is the Vancouver Police Museum. Located on the edges of the Downtown Eastside in the city’s old coroner building, this museum is perfect for anyone interested in how the role of police in Vancouver has changed over the years. For CSI fans there are also exhibits about the science involved in policing. The museum is home to a wide variety of archival materials including, but not limited to: different uniforms, confiscated items, equipment, badges, weapons, and objects related to the history of the building. The museum also has a collection of over 10,000 photographs,depicting policing activities throughout the years as well as historical snapshots of the city of Vancouver.
This museum give us a look into the history of the Vancouver Police Department. From confiscated weapons to unsolved mysteries, the museum is a great place for those who love crime and solving crime,
says a visitor's review.
I’d also recommend checking out one of the two city walking tours The Vancouver Police Museum offers. The first is a tour about the history of the city’s brothels and the second is a tour where the guide leads guests on the beat of a 1920s Vancouver Police Officer. Another really neat offering is their monthly event "Movies in the Morgue" where they screen films in the old city morgue for ten dollars. Tickets sell out quickly, so get them early!
The Vancouver Police Museum by Megan
Well, that’s my rundown of Vancouver’s most popular museums. Hopefully something sparked your interest. There’s so much out there to explore and enjoy. Don’t let the rain keep you inside!