Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto
The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is a museum of world culture and natural history in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. With its main entrance facing Bloor Street in Downtown Toronto, the museum is situated north of Queen's Park and east of Philosopher's Walk in the University of Toronto. Founded in 1912, the museum has maintained close relations with the university throughout its history, often sharing expertise and resources. The museum remained under direct control and management of the University of Toronto until 1968, when it became an independent institution.
Containing more than six million items and forty galleries, the museum has notable collections of dinosaurs, minerals and meteorites, Near Eastern and African art, East Asian art, European history, and Canadian history. It also houses the world's largest collection of fossils from the Burgess Shale with more than 150,000 specimens.
The ROM began in 1912 with the enactment of the Royal Ontario Museum Act by the provincial government. It was opened at 3 p.m. EST on March 14, 1914, by HRH The Duke of Connaught, Governor General of Canada. When the museum's site was first chosen, it was still at the edge of Toronto's built-up area and far from the city's central business district; the location was selected mainly for its proximity to the University of Toronto. The original building was constructed on the western edge of the property along the university's Philosopher's Walk, with its entrance opening on Bloor Street. It was the first phase of a two-part master plan which was to see the museum eventually expanded towards Queen's Park Crescent as an 'H' shaped building. Many of the artifacts were transferred from the museum's predecessor, the Museum of Natural History and Fine Arts at the Toronto Normal School.
The ROM's first expansion, opened on October 12, 1933, saw the construction of the wing fronting onto Queen's Park, and required the demolition of Argyle House, a Victorian mansion at 100 Queen's Park. To employ as many men as possible during the Great Depression, the excavation for the basements and foundations were undertaken by hand, with teams of workers working alternate weeks.
In 1964, the McLaughlin Planetarium was added to the south, and a multi-level atrium was added in 1975, doubling the floor space.
The second major addition to the museum was the Queen Elizabeth II Terrace Galleries on the north side of the building, and a curatorial centre built on the south, which were started in 1978, completed in 1984, The new construction meant that a former outdoor "Chinese Garden" to the north of the building facing Bloor, along with an adjoining indoor restaurant, had to be dismantled. Opened in 1984 by Queen Elizabeth II, a $55 million expansion took the form of layered volumes, each rising layer stepping back from Bloor Street, hence creating a layered terrace effect. The design of this expansion won a Governor General's Award in Architecture.
In 1989, activists complained about its Into the Heart of Africa exhibit; forcing the curator, Jeanne Cannizzo, to resign.
Beginning in 2002, the museum went through a major renovation and expansion project, dubbed Renaissance ROM. The centerpiece of the project is a major facility known as the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind whose design was selected from among 50 entrants in an international competition. The design saw the Terrace Galleries torn down and replaced with a Deconstructivist crystalline-form structure, named after Michael Lee-Chin who donated $30 million towards its construction. Existing galleries and buildings were also upgraded, with installation of exhibits in the addition spanning a period of months. The final cost of the project was about $270 million CAD. The first phase of the Renaissance ROM project opened to the public 2005, while the Crystal was opened in 2007. Renovated galleries in the historic buildings reopened in stages, and all work was completed by 2010.
Buildings and architecture
Original building and eastern wing
Designed by Toronto architects Frank Darling and John A. Pearson, the architectural style of the original building is Italianate Neo-Romanesque, popular throughout North America until the 1870s. The structure is heavily massed and punctuated by rounded and segmented arched windows with heavy surrounds and hood mouldings. Other features include applied decorative eave brackets, quoins and cornices.
The eastern wing facing Queen's Park was designed by Alfred H. Chapman and James Oxley. Opened in 1933, it included the museum's elaborate art deco, Byzantine-inspired rotunda and a new main entrance. The linking wing and rear (west) façade of the Queen's Park wing were originally done in the same yellow brick as the 1914 building, with minor Italianate detailing. However, the Queen's Park facade of the expansion broke from the heavy Italianate style of the original structure. It was built in a neo-Byzantine style with rusticated stone, triple windows contained within recessed arches, and different-coloured stone arranged into a variety of patterns. This development from the Roman-inspired Italianate to a Byzantine influenced style reflected the historical development of Byzantine architecture from Roman architecture. Common among neo-Byzantine buildings in North America, the facade also contains elements of Gothic Revival in its relief carvings, gargoyles and statues. The ornate ceiling of the rotunda is covered predominantly in gold back-painted glass mosaic tiles, with coloured mosaic geometric patterns and images of real and mythical animals.
Writing in the Journal of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada in 1933, A. S. Mathers said of the expansion: "The interior of the building is a surprise and a pleasant one; the somewhat complicated ornament of the façade is forgotten and a plan on the grand manner unfolds itself. It is simple, direct and big in scale. One is convinced that the early Beaux Arts training of the designer has not been in vain. The outstanding feature of the interior is the glass mosaic ceiling of the entrance rotunda. It is executed in colours and gold, and strikes a fine note in the one part of the building which the architect could decorate without conflicting with the exhibits."
The original building and the 1933 expansion have been listed as heritage buildings of Toronto since 1973. In 2005, a major renovation of the heritage wings saw the galleries made larger, windows uncovered, and the original early-20th-century architecture made more prominent. The exteriors of the heritage buildings were cleaned and restored. The restoration of the 1914 and 1933 buildings was the largest heritage project underway in Canada.
Designed by Toronto architect Gene Kinoshita, with Mathers & Haldenby, the curatorial centre forms the southern section of the museum. Completed in 1984, it was built during the same expansion as the former Queen Elizabeth II Terrace Galleries which stood on north side of the museum. The architecture is a simple modernist style of poured concrete, glass, and pre-cast concrete and aggregate panels.
The curatorial centre houses the museum's administrative and curatorial services, and provides storage for artifacts that are not on exhibit.
First opened in 2007, the Crystal houses the new main entrance to the museum, a gift shop, a restaurant, a cafeteria, seven additional galleries and Canada's largest temporary exhibition hall in the lower level. Designed by Daniel Libeskind, the Deconstructivist crystalline-form is clad in 25 percent glass and 75 percent aluminium sitting on top of a steel frame. The Crystal's canted walls do not touch the sides of the existing heritage buildings, save for where pedestrian crossing occurs and to close the envelope between the new form and the existing walls.
The building's design is similar to some of Libeskind's other works, notably the Jewish Museum in Berlin, the London Metropolitan University Graduate Centre, and the Fredric C. Hamilton Building at the Denver Art Museum. The steel framework was manufactured and assembled by Walters Inc. of Hamilton, Ontario. The extruded anodized aluminium cladding was fabricated by Josef Gartner in Germany, the only company in the world that can produce the material. The company also provided the titanium cladding for Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.
The overall aim of the Crystal is to provide openness and accessibility. It seeks to blur the lines between the threshold between the public area of the street and the more private area of the museum. The goal is to act as an open threshold where people as well as artifacts animate the spaces. The main lobby is a three-story high atrium, named the Hyacinth Gloria Chen Crystal Court. The lobby is overlooked by balconies and flanked by the J.P. Driscoll Family Stair of Wonders and the Spirit House, an interstitial space formed by the intersection of the east and west crystals, intended as a space of emotional and physical diversion.
Opened on June 1, 2007, by Governor General Michaëlle Jean, the Architectural Opening of the "Michael Lee-Chin Crystal" was controversial. Public opinion was divided about the merits of its angular design. On its opening, Globe and Mail architecture critic Lisa Rochon complained that "the new ROM rages at the world," calling it oppressive, angsty, and hellish, while others (perhaps championed by the architecture critic at the competing Toronto Star, Christopher Hume) hailed it as a monument. Some critics have gone as far as ranking it as one of the ten ugliest buildings in the world. The project also experienced budget and construction time over-runs, and drew comparisons to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao for using so-called "starchitecture" to attract tourism.
In October 2007, the Lee-Chin Crystal was reported to have suffered from water leakage. This caused concerns regarding the building's resilience to weather, especially in the face of the new structure's proximate first winter. Although a two-layer cladding system was incorporated into the design of the Crystal, intended to prevent the formation of dangerous snow loads on the structure, past architectural creations of Daniel Libeskind, including the Denver Art Museum, have suffered from weather-related complications.
Installation of the permanent galleries of the Lee-Chin Crystal began mid-June 2007, after a ten-day period when all the empty gallery spaces were open to the public.
Originally, there were five major galleries at the ROM, one each for the fields of archaeology, geology, mineralogy, paleontology, and zoology. In general the museum pieces were labelled and arranged in a static fashion that had changed little since Edwardian times. For example, the insects exhibit that lasted up until the 1970s housed insects from around the world in long rows of glass cases, with insects of the same genus pinned to the inside of the cabinet, with only the species name and location found as a description.
By the 1960s, more interpretive displays were ushered in, among the first being the original dinosaur gallery, established in the mid-1960s. Dinosaur fossils were now staged in dynamic poses against backdrop paintings and models of contemporaneous landscapes and vegetation. The displays became more descriptive and interpretive, sometimes, as with the extinction of the woolly mammoth, offering several different leading theories on the issue for the visitor to ponder. This trend continued, and up until the present time the galleries became less staid, and more dynamic or descriptive and interpretive. This trend arguably came to a culmination in the 1980s with the opening of The Bat Cave, where a sound system, strobe lights and gentle puffs of air attempts to re-create the experience of walking through a cave as a flock of bats fly out.
The original galleries were simply named after their subject material, but in more recent years, individual galleries have been named in honour of sponsors who have donated significant funds or collections to the institution. There are now two main categories of galleries present in the ROM: the Natural History Galleries and the World Culture Galleries.
Natural history galleries
The Natural history galleries are all collected on the second floor of the museum, and contains collections and samples of various animals from around the world.
The Gallery of Birds depicts several hundred bird specimens, illustrating the many different habits and ecological niches they inhabit. This gallery is dominated by the large "Birds in flight" display, and before the Schad Gallery opened, included exhibits of now extinct species, such as the Passenger Pigeon, which was moved to the Schad Gallery.
The Bat Cave, a reconstruction of the St. Clair cave in Jamaica, is filled with bats and other animals typically found in such caves, including spiders and snakes. It underwent renovations in February 2010 and opened later that month.
The Keenan Family Gallery of Hands-On Biodiversity provides visitors with the chance to experience and examine the world of nature close-up. Exhibits include a glassed-in working beehive, shed snake skins, and drawers filled with insect, bird, amphibian, reptile and mammal specimens.
The James and Louise Temerty Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs and Gallery of the Age of Mammals features many examples of complete dinosaur skeletons, as well as those of early birds, reptiles, mammals, and marine animals, ranging from the Jurassic to Cretaceous periods. The highlight of the exhibit is "Gordo", a recently rediscovered Barosaurus skeleton that is the largest dinosaur on display in Canada.
Designed by Reich + Petch and opened in late 2009, the Life in Crisis: Schad Gallery of Biodiversity features endangered species, including specimens of a polar bear, a giant panda, a white rhinoceros, a Burmese Python, Canadian coral, a leatherback sea turtle, a Coelacanth, a Rafflesia flower, and many other rare species. There are also recently extinct species displayed, including specimens of a Passenger Pigeon and Great Auk, as well as skeletons of a Dodo bird and a moa with a specimen of a moa egg, and many other recently extinct species. The gallery presents the need to protect the natural environment to educate the public about overhunting, habitat destruction, and climate change, which are main causes of extinction. In September, it received an Award of Excellence by the Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario. The Schad Gallery of Biodiversity is not merely an exhibition gallery showcasing Earth’s wondrous specimens, but a lesson for the future care of the planet.
The gallery is organized into three zones exploring the central themes: Life is Diverse, Life is interconnected and Life is at Risk. “Interestingly, biodiversity is a relatively new term popularized in 1985 as a contraction of biological diversity” said Anthony Reich, Principal, at Reich + Petch. “It’s a big subject that’s become more relevant to everybody. The challenge was how to tell this big story in a 10,000 sqft space. We decided to design a dynamic, immersive experience with three core themes that hopefully will make a lasting impression on visitors.”
World culture galleries
The A.G. Leventis Foundation Gallery of Ancient Cyprus houses roughly 300 artifacts, ranging in age from 2200–30 BC.
The Chinese Galleries comprise four sections: the Bishop White Gallery of Chinese Temple Art, the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Gallery of China, the Matthews Family Court of Chinese Sculpture, and the ROM Gallery of Chinese Architecture. The Bishop White Gallery of Chinese Temple Art incorporates three temple wall paintings (recently refurbished) from the Yuan Dynasty (AD 1271–1386). It also includes a number of wooden sculptures depicting various bodhisattvas. The ROM has one of the largest collection of Chinese architectural artifacts outside of China, which is housed in the ROM Gallery of Chinese Architecture. This gallery includes a reconstruction of an Imperial Palace building from Beijing's Forbidden City and a Ming-era tomb complex.
The Gallery of Africa: Egypt focuses on the life (and the afterlife) of Ancient Egyptians. It includes a wide range of artifacts, ranging from agricultural implements, jewelry, cosmetics, funerary furnishings and more. The exhibit includes a number of mummy cases, including the fine gilded and painted coffin of Djedmaatesankh, who was a female musician at the temple of Amun-Re in Thebes, and the mummy of Antjau, who is thought to have been a wealthy landowner.
The Gallery of the Bronze Age Aegean contains almost 200 objects that include examples from the Cycladic, Minoan, and Mycenaean periods of Ancient Greece, ranging in age from 3000 - 700 BC
There is a gallery devoted to the aboriginal peoples of Canada, called the Gallery of Canada: First Peoples, containing many examples of early 19th and 20th century artwork and clothing. It includes artifacts from the indigenous cultures of the Plains, Eastern Woodlands, Northwest Coast, Subarctic and Arctic regions. A rotating display of contemporary Native art is also on display there, a theatre devoted to traditional storytelling, and a collection of paintings by the pioneer artist Paul Kane.
The Gallery of Korea is the country's only permanent gallery devoted to Korean art and culture, ranging from stone-age tools to contemporary artworks.
The Prince Takamado Gallery of Japan contains the largest collection of Japanese artworks in Canada, featuring a rotating display of ukiyo-e prints, and the only tea master's collection in North America. The gallery is named in honour of the late Japanese Prince Takamado, who spent several years at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.
The CIBC Discovery Gallery allows visitors to engage in interactive, hands-on learning in a family-friendly environment. Visitors may dig for fossils, try on replica armour or costumes from around the world, and explore a child-sized Blackfoot tipi.
The expanded Sir Christopher Ondaatje South Asian Gallery and the new Wirth Gallery of the Middle East, opened on February 16, 2008, contain objects from over 5,000 years of history, including religious artifacts, paintings, textiles, sculpture, armour, and weaponry.
The Patricia Harris Gallery of Costumes and Textiles, opened in April 2008, features a broad range of garments and fabrics, including examples from the Chinese imperial court, 18th century European fashions, along with samples of Canadian needlepoint and quilts.
Other world culture galleries include the Herman Herzog Levy Gallery, the Samuel European Galleries, the Samuel Hall-Currelly Gallery, and the Shreyas and Mina Ajmera Gallery of Africa, Americas and Asia-Pacific, which display collections from the diverse indigenous cultures of these areas.
Institute for Contemporary Culture gallery
Located on Level 4 of the Lee-Chin Crystal, the Roloff Beny Gallery of the Institute for Contemporary Culture (ICC) hosts the Royal Ontario Museum's contemporary art exhibitions. This high-ceilinged multimedia gallery of approximately 6,000 sqft serves as the ICC's main exhibition space and the ROM's window on contemporary society, connecting the ROM's vast natural history and world cultures collection to contemporary art and events. The gallery has most recently featured exhibitions on fashion photography, street art, modern Chinese urban design and architecture, and contemporary Japanese art.
The Renaissance ROM project continues with a number of new or renovated galleries planned within the Museum's historic wings: Gallery of 20th Century Design.
The Museum is affiliated with: CMA, CHIN, and Virtual Museum of Canada.
Galleries of the Royal Ontario Museum: Ancient Egypt and Nubia. 1994. Roberta L. Shaw and Krzysztof Grzymski. Royal Ontario Museum. .