Royal Onatrio Museum (Toronto)

by MaxPower


In spite of suffering from a slight case of museum fatigue, the intrepid reporters from R4NT made their way to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) at about 3 o’clock on a Saturday. It was very crowded around the ROM as there were crews setting up for the Santa Claus parade which was going to take place on Sunday.

The ROM is the biggest museum in Toronto and in fact is the largest ‘natural history’ museum in Canada with 6 million pieces and attracts over a million visitors per year; additionally it is currently undergoing renovations to expand the floor space. The architect involved in the renovation is Daniel Libeskind, the same architect who did the award winning Jewish Museum in Berlin and was recently awarded the job to design and build the new World Trade Centre. The ROM building is fairly ‘classical’ for a Canadian building, completed in 1914, and the new section is a ‘crystalline’ structure which was inspired by the geologic formations contained in the ROM’s geology exhibit. If you can imagine as if a crystal was formed in stasis around the original classical building you’d be on the right track. From the pictures (they are just starting to build the expansion) it will look tres chic. I withhold the right to comment fully on it until it opens in 2005 (Phase A) and 2006 (Phase B), but I think museums play a big role in cities (Guggenheim in Bilbao for example) and should get the appropriate support. From between 1997 and 2002 government support for the ROM has declined from 55% of revenue to 47%, while revenue from admissions has increased from 11 to 17%, but more about admission prices later. I think that museums serve dual purposes, one to educate the population and as such they should be inclusive to the whole population and the other to record and preserve historical records. The ROM would be served to look at Canadian history and heritage and look at opening special exhibits to protect and educate Canadians as well as tourists about Canadian history.

Museums have been reviewed on R4NT in the past (see the review on the London museums) but the major difference between London museums and the ROM (other then the exhibits, you can’t beat the quality of ‘British Empire’ exhibits) is the fact that the museums in London are free and the ROM costs a dime to get into. For the four people representing R4NT in Toronto, the basic admission on a weekend would have cost $18 per person which includes admission into the ‘special exhibit’ which was an Art Deco exhibit when we were there. There is however, the provision that on Friday nights from 4:30PM to 9:30PM entrance is free. I highly recommend you check out the Friday night special if you’re traveling on a budget and use the money you saved to go out for a dinner. Personally, I would support more government funding for museums so that these ‘free’ days are more regular as I feel that they are part of ‘continuing’ education of the population.


We got our tickets on what seemed to be an extremely busy afternoon. The Art Deco exhibit was packed almost to the point where they should have been restricting entrance. At some points there were people three or four deep in front of the pieces. That being said I really liked the Art Deco exhibit which showcased Art Deco design pieces from jewelry to furniture to advertising to a really really really cool coffee pot! For those who aren’t in the style know, the Art Deco period extended from 1910 to 1931. Visit to get a bit of a taste.

The one piece that really caught my attention was this little stainless steel gun that looked like an old Buck Rogers style ‘space gun’ which, apparently, was an ‘ice cube gun’. I looked at that thing for about 10 minutes but for the life of me couldn’t figure our A) where the water went in, or B) where the ice came out. Looked cool though.

Other than the Art Deco exhibit, what was there to see you ask? Well enough to keep four weary museum goers on the move for upwards of three hours and we didn’t even get to everything. The ROM is huge and will be even bigger after the aforementioned expansion is completed in 2006. It includes exhibits on ‘The Life and Times of the Dinosaur’ (and no it doesn’t match the Tyrell Museum for quality or quantity of exhibits, but what does?), Earth Sciences (rocks and such), Hands On Biodiversity (which is good for kids but not really that ‘hands-on’), East Asian, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian exhibits all of which were very good and entertaining. I can honestly say they were some of the best exhibits of these types that I have seen in North America.

If your in Toronto I would highly suggest a visit, and if you’re here after 2006 make sure you walk down Bloor Street and take in the new ‘Crystal’ structure as it overhangs the street. For a look at the architecture or to get some more information on the ROM visit:

  • Royal Onatrio Museum (Toronto)
  • by MaxPower
  • Published on December 1st, 2003
Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto)
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Biggest museum in Toronto

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