Royal Ontario Museum

The Royal Ontario Museum

Exploring Canada’s largest museum – the Royal Ontario Museum

Having got all cultural with a visit to an art gallery the weekend before, last weekend we stepped it up and visited a museum.

The museum is question is the Royal Ontario Museum, otherwise known as the ROM. The great thing is that we got in for free, having taken advantage of the Toronto Public Library’s Museum + Arts Pass (many other attractions are also covered by this).

Royal Ontario Museum
The striking exterior of the Royal Ontario Museum

One of my favourite things about the ROM is its exterior. The original 1910s building and its 1930s extensions have been married with a jagged 2007 addition designed by Daniel Libeskind, creating a striking building that you can’t miss at the intersection of Bloor Street West and Queens Park. This is an interesting part of town and one of my favourite areas in downtown. Sitting on the edge of the upmarket and retail district of Yorkville, there is a good vibe, great views of the CN Tower and the skyscrapers of the financial district and not least, a Whole Foods (see, I told you it was upmarket).

Once immediately inside the ROM, it is reminiscent of London’s Natural History Museum, as the fossilised skeleton of a sauropod dinosaur looms over you.

In this case, it’s a Futalognkosaurus (this is a dinosaur that desperately needs an abbreviation like the T-Rex!), and is the largest dinosaur on display in Canada.

Futalognkosaurus ROM
The Futalognkosaurus in the ROM’s entrance

We ascended to the top floor of the museum, where we caught up with the rest of Douglas Coupland’s ‘everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything’ display, having seen the other half at the MOCCA. With no Lego creations on display, it held less interest, but still featured the Coupland trademark of plenty of colour and an eclectic collection of items. There were also some wacky pieces (you’d expect no less, this is an artist), such as an assortment of fake Andy Warhol wigs pressed behind glass.

Douglas Coupland ROM
Douglas Coupland’s everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything. We particularly liked the reference to fat people and the economy.

The third floor is dedicated to ancient cultures and world art, so in other words, largely boring. However saying that, there are some items of interest like the European, Middle Eastern/Turkish and Indian suits of armour (you can see a real contrast in style and approach); Polynesian/Pacific Islands weapons (glad I never met these guys when they were angry) and a shrunken head from South America. We’d seen one of these before at the Pitts River Museum in Oxford, and they’re still pretty gross (but in an interesting way) second time around.

Totem Pole Stairs ROM
The older part of the ROM is connected by the Totem Pole Stairs. The beautiful totem poles here date from the 1880s, and were made on the Canadian west coast. The tallest totem pole is 24.5m!

By now Emma was keen to get downstairs to the animals. Not that they were alive though. The first half is a room full of stuffed animals (there is also a replica Jamaican bat-cave), with the centrepiece being a white rhino. We thought this was really old at first, but then it turned out that it had lived in Toronto Zoo and had died only in 2008. He weighed over 2,000 kg when alive. That must have been one hell of a taxidermy job!

Some of you may have been lucky enough to see a rhino in the wild, or maybe you have seen them up close at a zoo like in Edinburgh. But if you are ever in doubt as to how big they are and why you don’t want to be charged by one, go to the ROM and stand face to face with this guy.

White rhino ROM
Such small eyes for something so big…
Autumnal scene ROM
An autumnal Canadian scene
Emma kids exhibit
Emma took to the kids area to take a closer look at a moose

Next up are the animals who we couldn’t preserve – dinosaurs and early mammal beasts. Anyone who has been to London’s Natural History Museum will know that the highlight there is the animated Tyrannosaurus rex model. Sadly there isn’t one of these at the ROM, but there is a T-Rex skeleton as well as the head of his great plant-eating adversary, the Triceratops. I couldn’t help but look at the T-Rex skeleton and think about the guy who gets eaten off the toilet in Jurassic Park!

Ancient mammals
A ferocious looking bear (bigger than a polar bear!); a mastodon; a giant ground sloth and a giant armadillo
T-Rex and Triceratops ROM
Emma sizes up a Tyrannosaurus rex; a Triceratops skull; adult and juvenile (ahhhh) Tyrannosaurus skulls

Also on display are skeletons of other classic dinosaurs such as the Stegosaurus and Allosaurus, and a massively long Barosaurus (27 metres long). These are only the skeletons, and yet they still tower over you. It’s difficult to imagine how big and impressive these animals would have been when they still had all their flesh and skin!

Stegosaurus ROM
Anti-clockwise from top: a Stegosaurus; a boney headed Pachycephalosaurus; face-to-face with an Allosaurus; and a 85 million year old fish, apparently being chased down by a giant turtle
Barosaurus ROM
“Gordo”, the 27m long Barosaurus. His tail ends all the way in the left of the photo

Finally, on the ground floor are displays dedicated to Korea, China, Japan and Canadian First Peoples. Again, a bit like the 3rd level, not really to our taste, but I’m sure some people will love this stuff.

Chinese exhibits ROM
Chinese exhibits
ROM old entrance hall
The ceiling of the old entrance hall in the original ROM building is decorated with a beautiful mosaic made from imported Venetian glass.

So there’s plenty to see at the ROM, suiting a variety of tastes, and if you are a Toronto resident, don’t forget that you can get in for free!

Stewart

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