Saanich man hopes vast collection of wax figures finds new home

A wax figure of Queen Elizabeth sits at the head of Ken Lane’s dining table (Ethan Morneau/Victoria Buzz)

Though this Saanich man’s unique collection of personalities past and present is turning heads, he’s willing to give it up for good.

For more than a decade, much of the collection that once filled Victoria’s Royal London Wax Museum on Belleville Street has been packed into boxes and stored in the basement of Ken Lane.

That’s about 350 disembodied wax heads, according to Lane, who served for a long time as the museum’s executive director before it closed in September 2010.

“I had been there for 30 years. It had a record of 50 and I was on it for 30,” Lane told Victoria Buzz in an interview.

And while the characters may have sentimental value, he says it’s time to purge themselves in the hopes that they’ll find a new permanent home, where they’ll be restored to their original glory so everyone can see them.

But probably not in Victoria, according to Lane.

“Victoria is sort of slumped on the tourism vine. There are a lot of challenges here, and they are not easy to solve,” he said.

Looking back, Lane says admission to the Royal London topped 400,000 in just a few years. “It was the busiest private sector attraction in downtown Victoria,” he recalls.

“The audience was so warm, welcoming and engaging throughout their journey through what they learned while we were doing our storytelling.”

Canadian, American and international tourists regularly strolled through the halls of the 12,000 square foot museum admiring the array of wax figures, which included Canadian prime ministers.

“And we tried to keep up with the royal family,” Lane said. “We have three or four images of Queen Elizabeth II, starting when she was a princess and going from there.”

The collection also includes Scottish poet Robert Burns (Ethan Morneau/Victoria Buzz)

Yet operating a wax museum with a changing inventory comes with high prices and often long wait times for new products.

Before Royal London closed, Lane ordered a wax figure of Kate Middleton, priced at $30,000. Another figure of a former Japanese emperor took 14 months to make.

“The bodies themselves are either fiberglass or papier-mâché,” Lane explained, noting that the beeswax makes their skin look so realistic.

“The oldest bodies are the papier-mâché ones, and they weigh a ton. The fiberglass bodies are adjustable, so you can move the arms and legs or sit them down and raise them.

Lane says he researched various communities to bring the wax collection back to life. “And we continue to work with some of them,” he said.

“But the energy is not that high right now because the pandemic (COVID-19) is creating so much uncertainty,” Lane added.

“It’s a good five to six million dollar project to re-establish the museum.”

He suggests that the next generation of wax museums offer a more interactive experience, with carousel technology to attract visitors.

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