Visiting museums and art galleries on vacation is one of the best ways to learn more about a new city and country. There are many museums in Vancouver that specialize in everything from anthropology to local history. Here are the top museums you should visit in Vancouver.
The Vancouver Police Museum, operated by the Vancouver Police Historical Society, is the oldest museum of its kind in North America and sits in a heritage building that was previously the Coroner’s Court and the city’s morgue, crime laboratory and autopsy facilities. There are over 20,000 documents, photos and artefacts inside the museum, which visitors can learn more about through a self-guided tour. Check out its Movies in the Morgue events, too, if you dare!
“Like no place on Earth.” The HR MacMillan Space Centre is where people can learn about astronomy through live demonstrations, exhibitions and shows. Inside, you will find the Planetarium Star Theatre, Groundstation Canada Theatre, Cosmic Courtyard Gallery and GMS Observatory, which is home to a half-meter Cassegrain telescope, with which visitors can observe Vancouver’s skies.
Founded in 1966, the BC Sports Hall of Fame houses a wealth of materials that shed light on and celebrate the rich history of British Columbia’s sporting world. The museum sits within BC Place in Vancouver and educates the public on British Columbia residents and their exceptional achievement in sports. Each year, a few select individuals are inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
Established in 1959, the Vancouver Maritime Museum specializes in maritime history from the Pacific Northwest and Canadian Arctic region. The St Roch National Historic Site exhibition highlights the former Royal Canadian Mounted Police Arctic exploration vessel known as St Roch. The museum also houses a selection of model ships, the Children’s Maritime Discovery Centre and a maritime art collection. Outside the museum, visitors will find the Ben Franklin – a NASA undersea research vessel.
The non-profit Science World is home to many galleries brimming with hands-on experiences and aims to encourage future leadership in science and technology throughout British Columbia. Science World is one of Vancouver’s most impressive buildings, but it’s just as unique inside. It’s home to the OMNIMAX Theatre, local science-inspired art displays, the Eureka! Gallery and the Ken Spencer Science Park, to name a few.
In the West End, visitors and residents alike will find the restored heritage house that is the Roedde House Museum. Constructed in 1893 for the city’s first bookbinder, Gustav Roedde, and his family, the late Victorian home has 11 rooms that reflect their everyday life, with period pieces (including some from the Roedde family) and artefacts, some of which guests may carefully handle. The museum also hosts various events throughout the year.
Located in the Greater Vancouver Area, the seasonal Burnaby Village Museum is a 10-acre (4ha) open-air museum. It represents a typical 1920s community, complete with a blacksmith, general store, ice-cream parlor and print shop. The museum’s townsfolk dress in period costumes and give demonstrations throughout the village, which also includes a CW Parker Carousel from 1912 and the restored Interurban Tram #1223. Children will love the Adventure Guide, which is available at the gates.
The Museum of Anthropology, recognized for both its exterior design and collections inside, sits on the University of British Columbia’s picturesque campus. Canadian architect Arthur Erickson designed the museum’s award-winning building, which houses one of the world’s finest collections of Indigenous art plus 535,000 archaeological objects. The museum hosts a variety of permanent and temporary exhibitions.
The Beaty Biodiversity Museum is also located at the University of British Columbia and is Vancouver’s only natural history museum. There are over 500 interactive exhibits and displays, which include more than 2 million specimens. The museum’s crowning jewel is its 85ft (26m) blue whale skeleton, which is the largest display of its kind in Canada. Many rotating and permanent exhibitions are also on display, including Earth Timeline, where you can “walk along 4.54 billion years of history.”
The Museum of Vancouver in Vanier Park focuses on the city’s history from the First Nations until today. It houses an extensive collection of First Nations artwork and artefacts, and permanent exhibitions include 1930s-1940s: Boom, Bust and War; 1960s-1970s: You Say You Want a Revolution; and Neon Vancouver | Ugly Vancouver. The museum’s mission is to inspire “a deeper understanding of Vancouver through stories, objects and shared experiences.”