It’s no secret that I love museums and visit them when I travel. Luckily, I also have a great one right here at home. Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, known as the ROM, is a pretty spectacular place. Most recently, I went there with my five-year-old niece Avery. And the fun we had 🙂
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About the Royal Ontario Museum
The Royal Ontario Museum knows as the ROM, is Canada’s largest museum. It is also one of the largest in North America. Here you’ll find an impressive display of art, culture and nature. All from around the globe and across the ages. It is home to a collection of more than six million objects and specimens.
Visitors can spend hours exploring special exhibitions as well as the many permanent collections. These include the dinosaurs, South Asian art and culture, ancient Egyptian treasures, as well as gems and minerals, wildlife and so much more.
History of the Royal Ontario Museum
As its website states, several people with wealth and influence championed the idea of a museum in Toronto. They clearly had enough power behind them as the ROM Act was created by the Ontario Legislature in 1912. This was the official beginning of the museum.
The ROM opened to the public with much fanfare in 1914. Originally, the province and the University of Toronto both governed the museum. In fact, many of the early specimens came from the university’s own collection.
Originally, the museum was made up of five independent museums known as the Royal Ontario Museums of Archaeology, Palaeontology, Mineralogy, Zoology and Geology. As The Royal Ontario Museum officially became its own entity in 1968, all parts became one.
Where is the ROM?
In its early days, the ROM’s location was at the edge of Toronto’s developed area. It was also chosen for its proximity to the University of Toronto. Today, it’s hard to imagine this busy corner as the edge of town. It is also a seamless part of the university campus.
The ROM is located at the corner of Bloor Street West and Queen’s Park. On the west, it borders the Philosopher’s Walk. It is a picturesque path that winds along with the many campus buildings and was once a natural waterway. If you do happen to visit the museum, make sure to check it out.
There is also a subway (metro) station right outside of the same name. It is by far my favourite station as it is designed to look like exhibits. When I went to school here, this was often the station I got off at. The Royal Ontario Museum is also nearby Yorkville, a pretty upscale area of Toronto. Here you might catch a glimpse of a celebrity, especially if you are here during the TIFF – a pretty impressive film festival.
The museum has undergone several expansions and renovations over the years. One of the most impactful and controversial was completed in 2007. What is known as the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, caused quite the stir when it was first unveiled.
Michael generously donated $30 million to the ROM and got the extension named after him. The design, however, is by architect Daniel Libeskind. It was chosen from 50 finalists. Fun fact: Libeskind first sketched the design on a napkin. It plays on the many crystal displays at the museum.
When it was finally completed, many were divided as to its appeal. To some, it was amazing. To others, it was an aberration. I must say, I didn’t love it at first, but then it grew on me.
Like any other museum, the ROM has a number of permanent collections. One of my favourites is the one with dinosaurs. I also love ancient Egypt. When I was a kid my mom took me to many museums and plays. I thought it would be fun to take my niece Avery with me. Since she’s five, she’s not been to a museum yet.
There was also a special exhibition on the Vikings. I really wanted to see it. However, it became clear after five minutes that Avery didn’t feel the same. So we breezed through that and made our way to see the dinosaurs.
In the museum’s lobby, you’ll find a giant dinosaur skeleton. It’s massive. You can stand beside it and look up till your neck hurts. It’s just that awesome. There are many large dinosaurs strategically places in the massive lobby. That is before you even get to this section.
Once you do, it’s truly spectacular. There are hundreds of specimens of different dinosaurs, fossils and other creatures from that time. Land, sea and air are all represented here. Avery was pretty excited about this part and even knew the names of the creatures. We didn’t stay that long, as it seems five-year-olds have the attention of a fly. Sigh.
There is something about ancient Egypt that fascinates me. It is alluring, mysterious and exotic. It’s one of the cultures that I didn’t get a chance to study in detail while in school. I made up for it on my own tho. I love seeing the sarcophagi, the mummies and all the artifacts.
Funny enough, Avery seemed to like them too. She even remembered days later that the mummies came from Egypt. I think she has the potential to become a history buff. Maybe.
Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume
It’s always interesting to see how people dressed back in the day. I am amazed at what was considered the “in” thing and the fact that so many of these pieces have survived. Nothing beats good craftsmanship even when it comes to clothes.
The ROM’s collection houses exhibits of transformation in design, manufacturing and cultural relevance that goes back 3,000 years! I don’t think I will ever get tired of this section. Every time I discover something new as the objects are rotated quite often due to their fragility. You will probably see about 200 of them out of a collection of 50,000!
Joey and Toby Tenenbaum Gallery of China
This is also a fascinating display of one of the world’s oldest civilizations. The ROM’s gallery of nearly 10,000 years of Chinese history, is ranked in the top 10 collections in the world outside of China. I can totally see why. There are so many objects, from everyday items and art to writing, sculpture and architecture.
There are so many other fascinating exhibits at the Royal Ontario Museum. It’s hard to cover them all. You could easily spend the day here, browsing through displays spread over six levels. We managed to stay for about three hours before calling it a day. It was a lot.
Bringing it together
The ROM is a fascinating place and has some really neat temporary exhibitions. It’s worth checking the museum site for more info before you come. If you’re in Toronto for a few days you might check out the Toronto pass as ROM is included in that deal. The pass is for general admission, so if you want to see a special exhibit, it’ll cost extra.
Do you have a fave museum? Let me know!