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Britannia Mine Museum

We normally pass the curious-looking building to our right when heading north to either Squamish or Whistler, but last weekend, we were motivated to visit. The Britannia Mine Museum’s signature event, Copper and Fire, was taking place. Now in its ninth year, the Copper and Fire music and arts festival showcases local artists and artisans, musicians, and performers at this well-visited museum.

Pawnshop Diamond's set
[Pawnshop Diamond on the Main Stage]

It was the perfect chance to visit the museum and take in the festivities on a beautiful summer day.

Britannia Mine Museum

We watched metal workers, potters, and jewelers at work, creating unique pieces for sale. Most of the artists are Lower Mainland-based, with Marty Ryan and his copper and bronze pieces travelling the furthest (from Golden, BC).

Twisted by Choice jewellery
[Twisted by Choice Jewellery]

Britannia Mine Museum

Britannia Mine Museum
[Daniel Miller, Chain Maille Artist]

Britannia Mine Museum

The museum is 10 minutes south of Squamish, just off the Sea to Sky Highway. It recently received a renewal, and is now a mining legacy site, a designated Canadian National Historic Site, and an internationally recognized tourist destination.

The renewal is part of a $14.7 million three-phase redevelopment project. The museum itself was established 40 years ago this year, in order to preserve the history of mining in BC. Through several displays and restored buildings, visitors can gain an appreciation of mining life, both its hardships and sense of community.

In April, the museum won this year’s Canadian Mining Museum Association (CMA) Award for Outstanding Achievement in Facility Development and Design. The honour was received at a gala event during the CMA’s 64th annual national conference in London, Ontario.

The museum also provides public engagement with regard to environmental and sustainability issues and is governed by the Britannia Beach Historical Society.

Once through the doors, we entered the Beaty-Lundin Visitor Centre, containing mine ore examples, old drill displays, and a theatre. We had about 20 minutes to explore the exhibit before our underground train tour began.

Britannia Mine Museum
[Display, Beaty-Lundin Visitor Centre]

Britannia Mine Museum
[Old drill on display inside Beaty-Lundin Visitor Centre]

The underground train tour is naturally a highlight of the visit, with a short ride leading right to where the action took place.

Britannia Mine Museum

Hard hats on, we boarded the train and descended into the tunnel. Our tour guide demonstrated a few of the drills (most of them loud!) and discussed working conditions, daily life in the mines, and mishaps.

Underground Tour

Underground Tour

Underground Tour/drill demonstration

Underground Tour

We toured a relatively small section of the massive 210 kilometer tunnel structure. Another interesting point to note is that until 1956, Britannia was only accessible by boat. At that time, the rail line was built, and two years later, a road to Vancouver.

Underground Tour
[Want to guess what this is?]

Underground Tour

60,000 people lived near the mine, combining the communities of Britannia and Mount Sheer. From 1904 to 1974, Britannia existed solely as a mining town. The area was pretty isolated, thus a community was created, including bowling leagues, skiing, a small newspaper, and other social activities. People from over 50 countries lived and worked here throughout the years.

Britannia Mine Museum
[Acetylene Shed]

Z
[Inside the A-Z Exhibit Hall]

Britannia Mine Museum copper sample

Mid-50's ski passes

Another interesting exhibit is housed in the A-Z Exhibit Hall, another restored heritage building that features the history of the mining town and items from the era.

We tried a bit of gold panning but came away empty-handed.

Britannia Mine Museum

Panning for gold

We did however collect a bead from each of the vendors to take to the craft table for creating a piece of jewellery to take home.

Britannia Mine Museum

Both kids and adults were enjoying this activity, a great initiative to get visitors creative. In fact, we saw people all over the grounds, sitting and stringing the colourful beads collected while perusing the vendor tables. One kid got a smart idea to sell his completed pieces at his father’s vendor table!

Bracelet for sale

Britannia Mine contains the only remaining gravity-fed concentrator mill left in Canada.

Inside the main mine building
[Inside the main mine building]

5 flights of stairs!

It was restored in 2007, when 14,416 panes of glass were hand-puttied into the frames in order to maintain its heritage status. At 20 storeys high, it’s an amazing building to visit. The stairs ascend at a 45 degree angle and handrails were only put in at the time the museum was opened!

Luke Perry on wall of fame
[Famous faces on the wall, inside the Assay Lab snack bar]

Britannia Mine Museum
[Bean on the Go! featuring Ethical Bean coffee]

Britannia Mine Museum is open year-round. Visit the website for detailed information including hours, admission, and events.

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