The Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum remains one of Victoria’s best-kept secrets.
Just on the outskirts of the city, visitors can head to the Canadian Forces base in Esquimalt, where the museum is open to the community.
There are temporary and permanent exhibitions on a wide range of topics, from women in the military and indigenous peoples to different types of ships and working living conditions for service personnel.
“The museum has two functions: it’s to educate the public, but it’s also a great archive for researchers,” said retired lieutenant commander Paul Seguana, who volunteers at the museum.
With so much to see, it can take an hour or more to walk through the museum despite it being unremarkable from the outside.
Different exhibits showcase various bells from ships, diving gear, technology and more. Many include life-size wax figures to help visitors imagine what these spaces will look like.
Visitors can even visit the captain’s galley and learn about the lives of sailors on board during World War I and World War II.
Each room has a different theme or story, and visitors can gain a comprehensive view of Canada’s naval and military presence at home and abroad over time.
Seguana said the museum building itself is a piece of history – dating back to when Esquimalt and Victoria settled.
The value of a museum lies not only in its ability to connect communities to military history, but also in that it is a resource for researchers and archivists to accurately tell stories based on the artifacts in the museum.
“It’s there that really matters, because if it doesn’t exist, can we still tell the story?” Seguana said.
The museum is also an ode to Canadian pride, with many exhibits showing the lives of sailors and servicemen during the World Wars.
“It’s a matter of pride that in an era of life-and-death struggle between democratic forces and totalitarian forces in the world, Canada has played an extremely important role in the air and on land,” Seguana said. “In that history, we often forget ourselves, but it’s a pride.”
Although the museum focuses on some of the many, the entire institution is really a story of a collective experience. Shaped not only Victoria, but countries around the world.
The museum is open daily from 10 am to 3:30 pm, and visitors must carry government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license or passport.
For more information about the museum, visit navalandmilitarymuseum.org.
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