Britannia Mine Museum


Monday, September 13th, 2010 — 1:00pm PST
Comments 32

The Britannia Mine Museum is re-launching next weekend after a name change (from the BC Mining Museum), refreshed logo, and updated visitor experience on the grounds of the old Britannia Mine, about 10km south of Squamish.

Britannia Mine Museum, Media Tour Day

John and I were invited up for the day to check out the grounds, the new buildings, and go underground to see what the life of a miner at Britannia was like.

Britannia Mine Museum, Media Tour Day

The mine-site was established as a National Historic Site and a BC Historic Landmark in the early 1970s but it began its life in 1904. It soon grew to become the largest copper mine in the British Empire and at one point, produced 17% of the world’s copper.

Britannia Mine Museum, Media Tour Day Britannia Mine Museum, Media Tour Day

Britannia Mine Museum, Media Tour Day Britannia Mine Museum, Media Tour Day

Britannia Mine Museum, Media Tour Day

The new visitor’s centre leads out into a courtyard of old wooden buildings huddled together with a boardwalk, rocky pathway, and remnants of giant metal machines from an era gone-by.

Britannia Mine Museum, Media Tour Day

Britannia Mine Media Day Tour Britannia Mine Media Day Tour

Britannia Mine Media Day Tour

Heading into the new information centre, the sound of metal-on-rock guides you through a quick corridor featuring equipment and hologram-like shadows of miners. You can duck around a corner to watch their new feature film, which we both really enjoyed. As far as movies in museums go, every bit of information provided was interesting on many levels.

Britannia Mine Museum, Media Tour Day

Walking out into a hall you can peek at minerals and precious metals on display; from meteorite to quartz on rhodochrosite. You’ll also learn about how the mine cleaned up its act since it was one of North America’s largest sources of heavy metal pollution (straight into the waters of Howe Sound) for 70 years.

Britannia Mine Museum, Media Tour Day

After playing with interactive displays with sliding touch-screens you can head outdoors once again to walk over to the old Administration Building. Here you’ll find an “A-Z” of life at Britannia and at the Mount Sheer townsite. There are antiques, such as old counting machines and drama club trophies and even lost love letters. You’ll quickly notice that the museum focuses on two main aspects; mining (how it works, what it does, how it’s evolved), and life as a miner (history, life, and love in Britannia Beach & the Mount Sheer townsite).

Britannia Mine Media Day Tour

Stories of community gatherings, tales of tragedy, and all that was involved with life in Howe Sound during the first half of the last century fill the museum’s walls and display cases.

Britannia Mine Media Day Tour Britannia Mine Museum, Media Tour Day

DSCN8440

It wasn’t until the late 1950s that the highway was constructed and connected the townsites to Vancouver. Until that time, for about 50 years, the only way in and out of Britannia was by pack horse over the mountains or steamship direct to Vancouver. Aside from the isolation, the entire area was owned by the mine so daily life revolved around the work and the company.

Britannia Mine Museum, Media Tour Day

Once you weave your way through the buildings you can pick up a hard hat at the Copper Sulphate building and head up toward the Mining House for an underground tour that will take you through the side of the mountain.

Britannia Mine Museum, Media Tour Day

The 30 minute guided tour starts off on a train that leads you through the face of the hillside, through a small portion of the 200km of tunnels that make up the mine. The guide explains how things worked in the tunnels and demonstrates some noisy machinery used by the miners. It’s a really neat experience but if you’re claustrophobic you may not like the first part of the tour, when you lose sight of daylight on either side of the tunnel. However, such was the extreme life of a miner — and the experience they are going for with the tour.

Britannia Mine Media Day Tour DSCN8446

Britannia Mine Media Day Tour

After the tunnel, our guide took us through the Core Shed, and the iconic Mill 3 building. It’s the building that you can see from the Sea to Sky highway and has also been a set for many films and TV shows (from X Files to 21 Jumpstreet and Double Jeopardy).

Britannia Mine Media Day Tour

Britannia Mine Media Day Tour

There we learned several more processes and by the end of the tour, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how solid stone could be mined, milled, and turned into pure concentrate powder, ready to be shipped out to the smelter.

Britannia Mine Media Day Tour

Other activities at the museum including gold panning workshops, performances, and a stroll through the gift shop. I noticed that since they are in the middle of re-branding, anything with a “BC Mining Museum” logo was 50% off.

Britannia Mine Museum, Media Tour Day

What I loved most about our visit was that among the dirt, dust, heavy metal, and rusted machinery, the museum incorporates the softer side of Britannia in their exhibits. The love, the family, the sense of community, and the softer human elements of the mine — not just the cold hard stone. That, and it gave me more of an education about the region’s history, which I always find fascinating.

Britannia Mine Museum, Media Tour Day

The Britannia Mine Follow them on Twitter @BritanniaMine and make a point to stop in during your next trip up the Sea to Sky, or make it your family’s next day-trip destination.

Britannia Mine Media Day Tour

If you would like to visit the mine, I have a family pack of passes to give away (good for 2 adults and up to 3 children). The passes will be valid for the next 12 months so you can plan your visit anytime. Here’s how to enter:

  • Leave a comment on this post (1 entry)
  • Post the following on Twitter (1 entry)
  • RT to enter to win passes for @BritanniaMine from @Miss604 http://ow.ly/2DyTP

    I will draw one winner September 22nd at 12:00pm.

    Update The winner is Paul McEwan (@PaulMcEwan) – have fun at the mine with your family!

    Current contests on Miss604.com

    32 comments

    1. Deborah Chatterton says:

      I’ve enjoyed taking my nephews to the Britannia Mine. Now my nieces are old enough to go, and it would be great to win passes to take them. I look forward to seeing the changes that have been made. Thanks for your informative blog post!

    2. Tyler says:

      We have always driven past, but have never stopped. Perhaps one day on our way up to Squamish and Whistler, we’ll stop off and take a peek!

    3. Rob says:

      Drove past for the hundredth time on the way to Live At Squamish – thought about stopping to check it out. Great article and pictures!

    4. Marcio TM says:

      I’d love to get there and know more about the mining age. That is one of my favorite X-Files locations!

    5. Caroline says:

      Great post! It certainly looks like a lot of work has gone into the rebranding – certainly makes me want to visit.

    6. Jeremy says:

      Been by here many times and would love to go take a peek!

    7. Jen says:

      This is one place I have wanted to visit 🙂

    8. retroboy77@hotmail.com says:

      I live in Squamish and I’ve never been there. I know I’d like it, but it’s so hard to plan a day to drive a few minutes and act like a tourist. Being a human is weird.

    9. Bonnie says:

      Wow they sure have done a lot of fixing up since last October!! Looks very nice!! Thanks for sharing those amazing pix.

    10. Veronica says:

      I haven’t been here since I was a child… I’d love to take my kids there now!

    11. Jessica says:

      I would love to go! My boyfriend used to do research on corporate social responsibility and mining companies. He’d love it too!

    12. Megan says:

      I’ve been working on this project, and the whole museum looks completely amazing! There has been a huge team of designers and builders involved, and it’s amazing that all the upgrades to the site (excluding the re-cladding of the concentrator building) have happened since October 2009.

      They’ve actually got another couple of phases coming up: Phase II will move some of the heritage houses from the old townsite to the north-west corner of the museum, and Phase II *might* (we’re working it out with the structural engineer) let people actually go into one of the upper floors of the concentrator building. But it’s definitely worth visiting a few times, as the whole site is completely incredible. Every time the construction crews stuck a shovel in the dirt they would find another building foundation, artifact or crazy piece of machinery.

    13. tracey says:

      I have taken my students, but would love to be able to take my family!! Hard to do on a teachers salary 🙁

    14. Everytime I pass by the Mine Museum, I kinda want to visit but have never despite having an interest in mining.

    15. Jane Iverson says:

      It is always refreshing to see our site through the eyes of others. It was particularly nice to hear you speak so fondly of your experience with the softer side of the mining community ~ the people and their stories. That meant a lot to me personally, as a Britannia resident (32 years so far!) but also from my perspective as Acting Curator of Collections at the Britannia Mine Museum. Thanks for doing such a wonderful review and your photos are awesome.

    16. Paul McEwan says:

      As a few have pointed out, we often drive by and think one day we’ll stop in there. We did. But it was half under reno’s and judging by your pictures of the tour we missed a lot. I am also interested in the clean up effort. Perhaps I’ll get a family pack and try it for real this time. …Off to tweet.

    17. Louise says:

      Always wanted to check the mine out. Our little son (almost 2) loves big trucks so I see a trip to the mine in our near future 🙂 Thanks for all of the great review info Miss 604

    18. Teresa K says:

      Seems like something fun to do!

    19. Clare says:

      We drove past last month and my kids were really taken by the look of the museum (and the huge dump truck outside). Now I have read your article (and the photos!) I really want to take them there too

    20. Ceci says:

      Nice article, sounds like you had a great time there at the museum. This one is definitely on my to do list.

    21. Roz says:

      Thanks for the info and pictures. Would love to take the family there to see.

    22. T&T says:

      I learned more about Britannia and the mine from your post than from years of driving past. Great to see what they have done with the site.

    23. Stephanie P says:

      I loved this article. My grandfather worked in this mine for many years, and my dad and aunt went to school there until high school which they attended in Squamish. There used to be a picture of my grandfather in the museum before the renovation.
      I haven’t been to the mine since i was in elementary school (a lot of years ago now) and would love to see the renovations.
      Thank you for your pictures– and insite 🙂

    24. Jenny Lee says:

      Looks pretty interesting!

    25. This looks so awesome! I kept driving by this on my recent road trips and didn’t even realise it was a museum that I could go in. I would love to win these passes, though I might have to go either way.

    26. Art Buffie says:

      It’s been many years since I’ve been through the mine, I’d love to see all the new changes they’ve done.

    27. Art Buffie says:

      It’s been many years since I’ve been through the mine, I’d really like to see all the new changes they’ve done.

    28. mike says:

      ive always passed by this place on my way to whistler and never went in…if i win this id use it many times and learn all about it. BC’s history is so interesting!

    29. Ryan says:

      My 3 kids would love to take their Mommy and Daddy to this mine. We have driven past many times and always wondered what it would be like inside.

    30. Dianne says:

      I was wondering when they would be completed. My daughter went there with her class a couple of years ago. It was a fabulous tour but it was pretty bare bones. I have been promising my daughter we would take a day trip up there sometime soon and check it out. This would be all the incentive I need to actually follow through. The drive up there is just so beautiful, we forget how wonderful our own back yard is.

    31. LB says:

      My partner and I just wrote up a “things to do in BC” list for the next year and touring this mine is totally on it! And not just because of the X-Files connection. 🙂

    32. Robert C Vaughan says:

      I WORK AT MOUNT SHEER TOWN SITE FROM 1955 TO 1958 TILL IT CLOSE DOWN
      IT WAS A NICE PLACE TO WORK AT.
      I AM GOING UP TO SEE THAT MUSEUM IN THE SPRING FOR SURE.

      R VAUGHAN

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