The Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum remains one of Victoria’s best-kept secrets.
Just on the outskirts of the city, visitors can turn onto the Canadian Forces Base in Esquimalt, where the museum is open to the community.
There are both temporary and permanent exhibits focused on a wide range of topics from women and Indigenous Peoples in the forces to the varying types of ships and living conditions service members worked in.
“The museum has two functions: it’s to educate the public, but it’s also a great archive for researchers,” said Paul Seguana, a retired lieutenant commander who volunteers at the museum.
With so much to look at, walking through the museum can take an hour or more, despite its unimposing appearance from the outside.
The different exhibits feature various bells from ships, diving gear, technology, and more. Many include lifesize wax figurines to help visitors visualize what it was like in those spaces.
Visitors can even take a peak at what a captain’s galley looked like as well as see how sailors lived on ships during the First and Second World wars.
With each room presenting a different theme or story, visitors can leave having a comprehensive understanding of Canadian naval and military presence at home and abroad through time.
The museum buildings themselves are a piece of history – dating back to when Esquimalt and Victoria were settled, Seguana said.
The value of the museum lies in not only its ability to connect the community to military history, but also as a resource for researchers and archivists to tell stories accurately based on the artifacts in the museum.
“It’s really important that this exists, because if it didn’t exist, would we even be able to tell this story?” Seguana said.
The museum is also an ode to Canadian pride, with many of the exhibits showing the lives of sailors and military personnel in the world wars.
“There is something to be proud of, that in a time in the world where the forces of democracy were engaged in a life-or-death struggle with totalitarian forces, Canada played an incredibly important role, in the air too and on land,” Seguana said. “Often we forget that about ourselves in that history, but it is something of some pride.”
Even though the museum focuses on certain individuals out of many, the whole establishment is really the story of a collective experience. One that shaped not only Victoria, but countries across the globe.
The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and visitors are required to bring a government-issued ID, such as a driver’s licence or passport.
For more information about the museum visit navalandmilitarymuseum.org.