How COVID-19 has affected the Maritime Museum of BC


How COVID-19 has affected the Maritime Museum of BC


8 April 2020


Brittany Vis


A few days ago, I made a comment to a colleague about how the world is collapsing around us. For the first time in my life, this wasn't an overstatement, or some dramatic clause thrown in to emphasize a point. The world as we knew it really is collapsing.

As a public historian I cannot help but reflect on other points in history when "the world collapsed" and the lessons we collectively learned from those changes. The last major world event that affected everyone at once was World War II, 75 years ago. I keep thinking about those who lived during those times. My partner and I are lucky to have family members still alive who remember those days. His Nana recently commented on the mad dash for toilet paper in mid-March and wondered why people were in such a craze. "People should just use newspaper like we did in the war!" She told us one evening. She's been very open with us about her experiences as an adolescent in England during WWII, but this particular detail had yet to be revealed. It's interesting the stories that get woven together throughout time.

We have been lucky to have gone so long without a world-wide catastrophe. But here we find ourselves, at the precipice of major change, once again. I hope that despite all the strain we are currently facing, that we can collectively work together to question the status-quo and ask ourselves how we can take advantage of this time of change to become a better society.

For the past several years at the Maritime Museum of BC, we've been working on the very sides of our desks on digital initiatives such as launching virtual programs. This school year, staff had spent several months testing virtual programs, and running one or two programs in January. We made the decision to try to increase this and to find a way to make virtual programs more widely available. But we hadn't yet had a chance to take any steps in that direction.

On the exhibits side, we've been saying for a year that we want to take our popular Great Pacific Garbage Patch and make it available online. This would help promote small changes we can make to our lifestyles that would be healthier for ourselves as well as for the ocean. But again, we hadn't taken any steps to make this a reality.

Similarly, we've been talking for four years about getting our gift shop online, with no clear action plan or dates associated with that goal. There was always something more urgent to be working on instead.

All of this changed on March 16th when we made the decision to close our doors until further notice due to COVID-19. Suddenly, everything we had been working on was set aside and a completely new set of to-do's were added to our list. Those long-standing, non-urgent to-do's were immediately picked up as top priority. Since then, we've been working on launching regular virtual programs, virtual exhibits, and the new online gift shop. Each of these is still very much a work in progress, but they are all coming.

I've been in awe of the staff for adjusting so quickly to this change and taking on the virtual challenge without hesitation, all in the effort to continue promoting and preserving our maritime heritage and culture in a way that keeps everyone safe and healthy. We will continue to do everything we can to keep these activities going during the closures. And when we are able to re-open again, we look forward to continuing to offer these new virtual activities, in addition to our in-person ones.

On behalf of the Maritime Museum of BC, I wish you well in your personal journey through this world crisis. History has taught us that this is a temporary situation and that we will be able to leave our homes once again. Let us now reflect on the changes we can make during this period that will lead to a better, stronger future on the other side.


Brittany, “How COVID-19 has affected the Maritime Museum of BC,” Virtual MMBC, accessed July 12, 2024,

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