National Treasure #41: Royal Ontario Museum

I’ve been in Toronto several times, but have never visited the Royal Ontario Museum, or ROM as it’s known to its friends. I see its worth, but I’m not really much of a museum-goer, so it tends to slide down the list.

Since I have no personal stories to relate or photos to share, I’ll do a point-form review, based on Wiki’s site and ROM’s own site. Next time you’re in Toronto, by all means visit it, and let me know what you liked the best.

Now, just the facts, ma’am . . .

Established – 1912

Opened – 1914

Expanded 1933, 1978 – 1984, and 2002 – 2005

Visitors – 1 million/year

Words used to describe (different parts of) its architecture and design – neo-Romanesque, neo-Byzantine, Gothic revival, modernist, deconstructivist, and, umm, leaky

Number of items – 6 million, including 150,000 specimens from the Burgess Shale (one National Treasure to another, I guess)

Number of galleries – 5 at the start, now up to 40

Gallery naming conventions – Used to reflect only what they displayed, but now are more likely to be named after a sponsor

Korean art – The only such gallery in Canada

This is one of a series on Canadian national treasures – my sesquicentennial project. They reflect people (living and dead), places and things that I think are worth celebrating about our country, and are done in no order of precedence.


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4 Responses to National Treasure #41: Royal Ontario Museum

  1. When I was four years old my parents moved from Ottawa to Toronto and found a house to rent about four long blocks away from the Royal Ontario Museum. My father was lecturing at UofT and completing his second graduate degree; I was starting Kindergarten. The exhibits even in the 1940s inspired awe, a sense of mystery, and, where the glass cage of live rattlesnakes was concerned, horror and primal fear. For that matter, the vast staircase encircling a mammoth B.C. totem pole was just as overwhelming in a different way. I remember cases of bugs and beautiful rocks; a large room full of surprisingly small suits of shiny armour; woven baskets, boats, fabrics, and vessels made by Canadian Aboriginals. Nested as it is in the University of Toronto, I claimed it as integral to my learning in so many ways: history, archaeology, anthropology, art, science, ethnology. It has shaped the thinking of millions of schoolchildren by sheer exposure to its marvels. Many special exhibits have delighted visitors from hundreds of miles away as well as hundreds of thousands of locals. Children’s and young people’s programs make its splendours more accessible than ever. I was underwhelmed by the 2002-5 addition and nearly suffocated in the poor air conditioning of its upper galleries. But the rest of the building continued to thrill and charm me five years ago when I last visited. Next time you are in Toronto, see what special events are scheduled. You might find a visit worth your time.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – What a delightful view of ROM, through a child’s eyes. Thank you. I have some of the same feelings about the Museum of Nature here in Ottawa – the building itself inspires feelings of belonging. I’ll drop in on ROM the next time I’m in Toronto for sure.

  2. Rosemary says:

    I did my MSc in the ROM and am also not a great museum-goer. I can give a great 45 min tour! (I last slightly longer if there’s a snack break.) I love the Mineral & Gem exhibit, and the dinosaurs.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Rosemary – OK, you’re on. Snack break a given . . . I didn’t know you liked minerals and gems, too.

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