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 spectacular. 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, known as the ROM, is Canada’s largest museum. It is home to more than six million objects and specimens. 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.
Visitors can spend hours exploring special exhibitions and the many permanent collections. These include the dinosaurs, South Asian art and culture, ancient Egyptian treasures, 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 had enough power behind them as the Ontario Legislature created the ROM Act in 1912. This was the official beginning of the museum.
The ROM opened to the public with much fanfare in 1914. Initially, the province and the University of Toronto both governed the museum. Many of the early specimens came from the university’s collection.
Initially, 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 an entity in 1968, all parts became one.
Where is the ROM?
The ROM’s location was at the edge of Toronto’s developed area in its early days. 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 happen to visit the museum, make sure to check it out.
There is also a subway (metro) station right outside with the same name. It is my favourite station as it is designed to look like an exhibit. When I went to school here, I often got off at the station. 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 changes 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. The submission was selected from a list of 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 several 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 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 enormous dinosaurs strategically placed 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. 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 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! Every time I discover something new, 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! I don’t think I will ever get tired of this section.
Joey and Toby Tenenbaum Gallery of China
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 see why. There are many objects, from everyday items and art to writing, sculpture and architecture. This is also a fascinating display of one of the world’s oldest civilizations.
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 neat temporary exhibitions. It’s worth checking the museum site for more info before you come. You might check out the Toronto pass if you’re in Toronto for a few days, 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!