On May 17, in culmination of its Visitor Experience Improvement Project, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum publicly unveiled its improvements to learning and social spaces within the gallery. They were made with the feedback of visitors and funding from the BC government.
Last year, in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary, the government of BC granted $7.6 million to museums and heritage sites scattered around the province to support projects honouring and celebrating BC’s distinctive cultures and heritage. In January 2017, the Beaty Museum became one of 221 recipients of the provincial grant.
The only natural history museum in Vancouver, the Beaty Museum is home to over 2.1 million specimens classified into six diverse collections and also Canada’s largest blue whale skeleton.
Dr. Eric Taylor, a UBC zoology professor and the director and curator of fishes at the Beaty Museum, said, “What we do here… is that we make an effort to get feedback from people who visit, and one of the pieces of feedback we got often was that they’d like things to be more interactive … So we made an application [to the provincial program] to try and improve the visitor experience at the museum, which reflects Canada’s natural biodiversity.”
The Canada 150: Celebrating B.C. Communities and their Contributions to Canada program — which was administered by the British Columbia Museums Association alongside Heritage BC — provided successful applicants with one-time grants of up to $100,000 to fund a maximum of 80 per cent of overall project costs.
It was announced early last year that the museum received $65,000 to put towards the implementation of its project, which was completed with additional financial support from the faculty of science. Work for the project concluded in early 2018, and the results of the endeavour were officially revealed on May 17 to the public, who gathered at the museum to engage in activities exploring the full scope of the improvements.
“We hope that [the project] makes their visits here more comfortable, more educational and more inspirational,” said Taylor.
“We have some better seating in the main area ... [and] some digital layers for the whale station, which is one of our most popular stops to help people learn more about the whale.”
Other additions include improvements to the museum entrance and admissions area and mobile research workstations for more interactive access to the collection.
Taylor commented that the only obstacles in implementing the project were in refining the design, while aiming to enhance the displays and adding to the comfort and educational value of the exhibit and social areas.
“We hope [visitors] enjoy themselves here and learn more about things,” said Taylor.