When you think about Canada, mayhem and murder are not the first things that come to mind. Like any country, however, Canada has its seamy underbelly, and the Vancouver Police Museum (formerly called the Vancouver Police Centennial Museum) aims to show just that, taking visitors on a a macabre trip through the darker side of this Western Canadian city.
Started in 1986 by Joe Swan, a former police sergeant and amateur historian, the museum is housed in a old brick “heritage” building which, only six years before, was the Coroner’s Court and autopsy facilities. The morgue has since been turned into part of the museum and can be toured.
Located in Vancouver’s Gastown - a historically seedy neighborhood, now a tourist attraction - the museum houses a collection of approximately 20,000 objects, including confiscated firearms and other weapons, counterfeit currency, police uniforms, archival documents, photographs, publications, and various other artifacts and memorabilia.
Among its more curious exhibits are a painted skull sent into the Vancouver Police Department, an exhibit of the police officers who have died in the line of duty since 1886, some fairly intense anatomical specimens left over from crime analysis, the “milkshake murderer exhibit,” and—in the behind-the-scenes area, which you can see on a tour—the “blood drying room,” where blood soaked evidence was once hung to dry.
The museum also offers a walking tours of the neighborhood on the theme “Sins of the City,” which takes you into the basements and alleyways of Vancouver and through the history of bootlegging, prostitution, and murder in the city.
Obscura Day location: April 9, 2011.
Know Before You Go
The museum is located on Cordova Street, which is one block north of Hastings. There is extensive metered parking in the blocks surrounding the museum, costing $1 per hour. Please note that Cordova Street is a one-way (eastbound) street.
By Public Transit
Both the #4 Powell and the #7 Nanaimo bus routes can be boarded near Granville or Waterfront Skytrain Stations and both stop a few hundred feet from the Police Museum. Numerous additional bus routes travel along Hastings Street. Visit Translink at www.translink.bc.ca or call (604) 953-333 for additional route, fare and schedule information.
Patrons are encouraged to walk to the museum through historic Chinatown, up Pender Street to Gore Street, then travel two blocks north on Gore to Cordova. Visitors in Gastown can travel east from Maple Tree Square along Powell Street to Gore, then one block south to Cordova Street. Hastings Street is not a preferred walking route.