There’s something rare and special about buildings that celebrate water and all things that live and move upon and within it. As someone who researches narratives of naval exploration, they feel like a stable haven not just for the tools and treasures, but also for the stories of those whose lives are sometimes overwhelmingly full of movement, adventure, and even danger because of their connection to the world’s waterways.
I’ve been in maritime museums in places as far flung as Reykjavik and Halifax, and there’s something comfortingly familiar about the sextants, oars, compasses and plates that are the foundation of all such spaces: the heroic travels are broken down to the level of a single human body: the stretching of an arm, a careful glance at a horizon, a warm meal. A few hours in the Vancouver Maritime Museum will be an especial gift: I left Vancouver and moved to Ontario for graduate school, and I’ve spent the intervening years studying British naval exploration in a landlocked Canadian city. The VMM looks out on one of the world’s most beautiful urban harbours, and I can hardly wait to breathe in the salty west-coast air of my youth. On 10 November I’ll be there, talking about the work that took me away from it so many years ago. I’ll be talking of Lady Franklin and the Franklin Expedition, of ships and oceans and people far away in time and distance, and I’ll be surrounded by objects and images the explorers and their families would have known or recognized. The water itself will be there, too, lapping against the shore the beautiful museum itself bravely faces, and connecting us all–the world’s museums that celebrate it, the people who study it, the past and the present, and the stories yet to come.