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Great Hall Seismic Upgrades + Renewal

[Updated October 5, 2023]

In January 2023, the Museum of Anthropology at UBC temporarily closed to the public to facilitate the completion of the seismic upgrades of its Great Hall. The Museum is expected to reopen to the public in June 2024.

  1. Project Overview
  2. Construction Livestream, Photos + Media
  3. Project Timeline
  4. Frequently Asked Questions
  5. Project Details
  6. Project Team

Project Overview

MOA has been temporarily closed to the public since January 2023 to facilitate the completion of the seismic upgrades of its iconic Great Hall. The Museum is expected to reopen to the public in June 2024, in time to welcome back the many thousands of local, national and international visitors during the busy summer season.

Groundbreaking Seismic Technology + Building Upgrades
The project will upgrade the resiliency of the Museum and protect its irreplaceable collection in the event of a major earthquake. When the project is complete the Great Hall will look as its famed Canadian architect, Arthur Erickson, intended in his original plans in the mid-1970s, though now it will incorporate groundbreaking 21st-century technology. The cutting-edge design/engineering solution for the Great Hall seismic upgrades is to install base isolators under the suspended main floor slab to absorb the impact of seismic activity, separating the building from the ground and from the adjoining museum structures.

Additionally, MOA is under construction for other critical building upgrades, such as updates to its lighting, skylights, roofing, window coverings, carpeting and fire protection. Together, these improvements will better showcase and protect the collection.

Revitalization + Reinterpretation of Great Hall Displays
Importantly, the seismic upgrade project also presents a significant opportunity for MOA conservators and curators, working together with First Nations communities and family groups, to work together to revitalize the displays and interpretation of the massive carvings, poles, belongings and artworks housed in the Great Hall and other areas of the Museum. MOA is working with Indigenous knowledge holders to prepare the reinstallation and reinterpretation of these significant works in the Great Hall in culturally appropriate ways, once the seismic upgrades are complete. The safety and protection of these irreplaceable Indigenous objects is of the highest priority to MOA’s team, which is ensuring they are well cared for during construction.

Temporary Closure + Reopening
The planning for the seismic upgrades of the Great Hall began in November 2020, and officially began in December 2021. Since then, progress has been underway to rebuild the Great Hall with cutting-edge, 21st-century base isolation technology. While the Great Hall was demolished in January 2022, the rest of the Museum and its galleries remained open to public for the year and visitors were able to continue enjoying access to feature exhibitions and MOA’s permanent collections.

In January 2023, the entire Museum was temporarily closed to accelerate the completion of this monumental undertaking. Initial timelines that were announced anticipated that MOA would reopen in late 2023; however, as with construction projects of this magnitude, extenuating circumstances have pushed back the much-anticipated reopening to June 2024. Though the Great Hall project has faced pandemic-related supply chain issues, provincial port and concrete labour disruptions, and unexpected construction setbacks, the team of construction managers, engineers, architects, UBC planners and MOA staff continue to steadily advance the project with the extraordinary care and consideration required of a project of this significance.

When MOA is slated to reopen in 2024, it serendipitously marks the 75th anniversary year of when MOA first opened—in its original location in the basement of the UBC Library. A season of special programming is in the works, and will be announced as the Museum’s reopening nears.

Heritage Value + Sensitive Approach
MOA has important heritage value for UBC. The Great Hall seismic upgrades therefore involve a sensitive approach, following conservation principles that address both the heritage values and character-defining elements of the site and the building. The Musqueam Indian Band has participated in planning meetings. In addition, feedback from the Arthur Erickson Foundation has informed the architectural and construction approach to the project, ensuring the Great Hall will retain the appearance of the original space to preserve its architectural character and heritage values.

MOA’s landscape and grounds will also be fully remediated once construction is complete.

Ongoing Indigenous Access + Public Programming
Though the building is temporarily closed, MOA continues to facilitate access for Indigenous communities to the collections. The museum has also been offering on-site behind-the-scenes tours, special virtual events, digital school programs, and other exciting initiatives for the public. Likewise, the museum’s teaching, research and exhibition work continues in preparation for welcoming visitors back in June 2024 with a revitalized museum experience.


Construction Livestream, Photos + Media

Livestream of construction site:

Project photo album (click image to open album):

Photo by Brannen Bell.

4D animated simulation of construction process:

Project proposal:

Open House information panels:

Link to information panels on UBC Campus + Community Planning website

360° virtual tour of the Great Hall in its original state:


Project Timeline

Upcoming milestones

January 16, 2023 – June 2024: MOA will be temporarily closed to the public to accelerate the completion of the Great Hall seismic upgrades and other building improvements.

June 2024: The Great Hall seismic upgrades will be complete and the Museum will reopen to the public.

OverviewTimeline of Great Hall Seismic Upgrades

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the scope of the project?

In Fall 2020, the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) began preparations for a rebuild of its Great Hall to upgrade the seismic resiliency of the space and protect its irreplaceable collection in the event of a major earthquake. As part of a larger renewal project, the Museum is also currently receiving other building improvements, such as updates to its skylights, lighting, roofing, window coverings and fire protection.

Why is this project happening?

As part of ongoing seismic planning, UBC conducted a comprehensive evaluation of seismic risk across all campus buildings to assess, plan, and prioritize upgrades to buildings or areas within the buildings that have the highest seismic risk. MOA’s Great Hall was determined to have a high level of seismic risk and therefore was prioritized for upgrade.

During the project planning process, it was determined that it would not be feasible to achieve improved seismic performance to the Great Hall while retaining the existing structural elements. A complete rebuild of the Great Hall was determined as the best approach to upgrading the resiliency of the space without compromising its architectural integrity.

UBC and MOA acknowledge that the Museum is built on the traditional, ancestral and unceded land of the Musqueam people. Musqueam Indian Band has participated in the planning process.

What is the project timeline?

In Fall 2020, MOA underwent the delicate, complex process of lowering and moving the totem poles from the Great Hall and into an adjacent gallery, in preparation for seismic upgrades. In December 2021, a construction hoarding wall was erected to close the Great Hall from the rest of the Museum. In January 2022, the Great Hall structure was taken down to rebuild it with base isolation technology in place. On January 16, 2023, the whole Museum temporarily closed to accelerate the completion of the complex construction project. The Great Hall will be completed and Museum will reopen to the public in June 2024.

What’s happening to the collection in the Great Hall during construction?

All objects from the Great Hall, including more than 20 massive carvings, are temporarily located elsewhere in the Museum for the duration of the construction. This unique collection will be reinstalled into the Great Hall once construction is complete.

MOA is liaising with Indigenous communities and families whose cultural objects are housed in the Great Hall. They will continue to provide input into protocols around moving and re-installing these works into the Great Hall post-construction. MOA’s team are ensuring the irreplaceable Indigenous objects are well cared for during construction.

Is the Museum going to be closed during the whole construction process?

From January 16, 2023 until June 2024, the whole Museum will be temporarily closed in order to accelerate the completion of the project. Up until January 2023, the Museum and its gallery spaces remained open to the public. However, this year MOA has been temporarily closed to accommodate this complex construction project, and then to re-install the massive carvings in the Great Hall, and complete new exhibitions and displays.

We look forward to welcoming everyone back to the Museum in June 2024.

What will the Great Hall look like after the project is complete?

MOA is considered to have important heritage value for UBC. The rebuild of the Great Hall involves a sensitive approach that will follow conservation principles that address both the heritage values and character-defining elements of the site and the building. Feedback from Arthur Erickson Foundation has shaped the architectural and construction approach to the project. The new rebuild for the Great Hall will retain the appearance of the original space to preserve its architectural character and heritage values. When the project is complete the building will look like it does now with some improvements, including new lighting and carpeting.

MOA will also receive some other building improvements, such as updates to its skylights, lighting, roofing, window coverings and fire protection – some of this work has been underway for the past year. Together, these improvements will better showcase and protect the collection. MOA’s landscape will also be fully remediated once construction is complete.

Was there public consultation about the project?

As part of public consultation for this project, a virtual open house was held on June 29, 2020. It was a drop-in style event hosted on Zoom. UBC Campus + Community Planning staff, project design representatives and MOA staff were available to answer questions or respond to comments. The public comment period for this project closed on July 7, 2020. Comments received were then considered as part of the development permit approval process.


Project Details

The Great Hall Renewal is a joint project of UBC Campus + Community Planning, UBC Infrastructure Development and the Museum of Anthropology.

Please visit the UBC Campus + Community Planning website for project details, documents and technical information, including:

  • •  Project Overview
  • •  Public Consultation
  • •  Project Considerations
  • •  Architectural Plans
  • •  Landscape Plans
  • •  Tree Protection Plan
  • •  Frequently Asked Questions
  • •  Project Timeline

Further project updates are also available on the UBC Infrastructure Development website.


Project Team

Development Permit: DP19025

Status: In construction

Project Manager: UBC Project Service — Aletha Utimati

Architect: Nick Milkovich Architects Inc.

Construction Manager: Heatherbrae Builders Co Ltd.

Structural Engineer: Equilibrium