If you love museums and unraveling the past, historically, archeologically and scientifically then ROM is a perfect place for you. It houses dinosaurs, historical artifacts, meteors, famous paintings and some exhibits. It has over 6 million artifacts and has the largest collection of fossils from the Burgess shale, the most popular fossil field. It was built in 1912 with an eye catching pointed and glass design.
I have to confess that it's not very often that I find myself in wholehearted agreement with Prince Charles, but when I look at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), I am reminded strongly of his comment that a proposed extension to the National Gallery in London would be a "like monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much loved and elegant friend". I simply don't know why society allows deranged architects to inflict modernistic extensions on venerable old buildings, and seldom have I felt that more strongly than in the case of the ROM, which reminds me of a discarded set from The Flintstones and makes me suspect that it is the architectural sibling of Federation Square in Melbourne (which regularly makes Top 10 lists of ugliest buildings in the world). In fact, if I were of a cynical inclination (perish the thought!), I would be tempted to claim that one of the advantages of visiting the ROM is that once you're inside, you don't have to look at the exterior!
The ROM is a world class museum, and is undoubtedly one of Toronto's touristic highlights. It is dedicated to natural history and culture, and boasts an excellent collection. I particularly enjoyed the dinosaur exhibit, especially as many of the fossils on display originate from Canada's Alberta province, which adds a welcome local 'flavour' that is often lacking in such collections elsewhere. As well as the usual stalwarts of dinosaur exhibits, there are some excellent and unusual additions, such as gigantic fossil turtles and fish suspended from the ceiling (see photo), as well as the largest fossil sea scorpion ever discovered - a whopping 2.5m of invertebrate attitude that made me quite grateful for the fact that I had only evolved in a later epoch!
Another highlight of the fossil galleries are the wonderful flying reptiles, including Quetzalcoatlus northropi, the most enormous pterosaur of all and the largest animal ever to take flight. The proportions of this amazing beast are quite extraordinary, with a colossal 12m wingspan supported by spindly little 'fingers' of bone, and the overall impression is one of extreme fragility despite its enormous size ... not a great surprise that God drew a line under this evolutionary cul de sac and reverted to the drawing board to come up with condors!
In a more contemporary vein, the reconstruction of a bat cave is a guaranteed crowd pleaser, particularly if you have kids in tow.
There are also good collections of Native American artifacts, including some totem poles. I understand that the Asian exhibits are also outstanding, but by then I was all 'museumed out' and in need of a breath of fresh air, so I didn't get that far.
The downside of the ROM is that even the small proportion of the collection that is on display is huge, so in order to avoid sensory overload, I would recommend visiting more than once for shorter periods, rather than trying to take in the whole lot at once. However, the admission price is steep (C$24 at the time of writing in September 2011), even if it's justified by the quality of the collections, so in order to determine how to do this affordably, check the website below for ticketing options and consider whether it's worth buying a Toronto City Pass, which offers substantial discounts on the entrance price. At the time of writing, ROM offered half price admission after 16:30 until closing time at 21:30 on Fridays and free admission from 16:30 until closing time at 17:30 on Wednesday, which would be well worth planning your visit around if you're on a limited budget (or just sensibly frugal).
Update (November 2011): I understand that the cheap/free admission arrangement on Wednesday has been halted, and instead a scheme to make the museum more affordable for the disadvantaged has been implemented. As ever, check the website for up-to-date information.
The ROM’s Free Access Program - Listings Change
Please note - effective October 27, 2011: In order to significantly lower prices every day of the week for all visitors, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) has discontinued its Wednesday free two-hour period. Resources will be redirected to serve those who require free access most. The ROMCAN program (ROM's Community Access Network) has increased its free admission provided to marginalized community groups by 50 per cent to 75,000 free admissions.
By discontinuing the Wednesday program, the ROM can now offer greater affordability to all visitors by reducing admission prices every day of the week. Effective immediately, the Museum now offers general admission at more than a third off the previous rates, as well as discounts on feature exhibitions. Adults, seniors, students and families will all benefit through significantly lower every day rates.
For more information, visit www.rom.on.ca.
This is probably my favourite musuem I visited in Toronto. There are four levels of permanant and temporary galleries where on my visit I looked at the Korea, China, Japan new galleries that were recently added to the museum. My ticket included a visit to a the 'Italian Arts & Design The 20th Century Exhibition', which was on whilst I was in Toronto.
I used my city pass for my admittance and please check out the ROM for further information and updates.
Archelon ischyodus scares the pants off me. It's a cast skeleton of a 15-foot prehistoric sea turtle that's suspended from the ceiling in a diving position. It gives me chills imagining that thing, the size of a small car, swimming around underwater ready to bite my leg off. I can't keep my eyes off of it just in case it comes to life.
This is the new "Age of Dinosaurs and Age of Mammals" exhibit at the ROM. It has loads and loads of skeletons. The most impressive are the photogenic Tyrannosaurus rex with its 60 razor-sharp teeth, the 90-foot long Barosaurus (the only mounted one in the world), a mastodon, and a gigantic ground sloth that's twice the size of a bear. Gone are the ROM's recreations of dinosaurs that were part of my childhood--painted plaster replicas with glass eyes posed against plastic jungle backdrops. My sister-in-law, who works at the museum, shakes her head sadly and explains, "Those aren't 'cool' anymore. ...I miss them too. Pure skeletons are the in-thing now."
More details to come...
As one might expect in the nation's largest city, this is a world-class museum with some excellent cultural exhibits and artifacts! They feature exhibits on Canada, Native Americans (First Nations), China, Japan, Korea, Egypt, the Middle East, Europe, Latin America, South and Southeast Asia, and Oceania.
Some of the highlights include the clothing, signature, and hat of Sitting Bull, one of the most famous Native Americans, artifacts from the Ming Tombs and large Yuan Dynasty murals, Japanese weaponry and some of Hiroshige's 100 Views of Edo prints, and many ancient artifacts in the Egyptian and Middle Eastern galleries! The cultural displays are really the reason to visit! Special exhibitions are also often world-class! I was able to see the Terracotta Warrior exhibit, which was fascinating and featured many artifacts that were being displayed for the first time!
The gems are also a great exhibit, and the bird exhibit features birds positioned in-flight. The dinosaur exhibit features mostly casts, but a few nice fossils.
To fully explore the museum, it can easily take half a day! There's really a lot to see!
Life in Crisis (Schad Gallery of Biodiversity) on Level 2 shows species, such as Snow Leopards of Pakistan (picture # 1) in crisis due encroachment and environmental degradation. Located at the centre of this gallery is the Earth Rangers Studio, a state-of-the-art space for digital and live programming on latest scientific research and relevant issues.
Gallery of Birds on Level 2 displays hundreds of species of birds in flight (picture # 2). Children were constantly pulling drawers out that contained eggs, feathers, footprints and nests. Mini-dioramas focus on extinct birds and how environmental changes and habitat destruction have put other species in danger.
Patrick and Barbara Keenan Family Gallery of Hands-on Biodiversity on Level 2 is a hands-on learning centre exploring the vast diversity of life on earth. The gallery is based on the Museum's collections and research, and offers visitors a venue to examine and handle hundreds of objects, such as the "living" displays—mossy frogs from the jungles of Vietnam, fish found in a typical southern Ontario stream (pictures # 3, 4 and 5), and bees flying in from outdoors in the gallery’s active beehive.
We visited seemingly popular Reed Gallery of the Age of Mammals on Level 2 for viewing an impressive array of large fossil skeletons and unusual North and South American specimens (pictures 1 and 2) in a gallery that explores the rise of mammals through the Ice Ages that followed the great extinction of dinosaurs.
The immensely popular James and Louise Temerty Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs on Level 2 feature collection of dinosaur skeletons (picture # 3), along with fascinating fossil birds like the biggest pterasaur viz. Coatzlcoatlus (picture # 4), mammals, insects and plants of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
Teck Suite of Galleries (Earth's Treasures) on Level 2 again turned out to be a popular location. This is divided into the Vale Inco Limited Gallery of Minerals, the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame Gallery and the Gallery of Gems and Gold.
Admittedly, these galleries were a little less visited during the March Break day, because one has to agree that children are normally focused on other attractions within the museum.
There are over 17 galleries on cultures of the world. However, we visited only 4 of them and left the remaining ones to another day.
Samuel European Galleries on Level 3 feature decorative arts of western and central Europe from the Middle Ages to the present day. We liked the articles of interior decoration (picture # 1), the arrangement of drawing room, and arms and armour.
Shreyas and Mina Ajmera Gallery of Africa, the Americas and Asia-Pacific on Level 3 showcases unique arts and culture of indigenous peoples from Africa, the American continents, the Asia-Pacific region and Oceania. We found the artwork of native American cultures to be very colourful (picture # 2).
Sir Christopher Ondaatje South Asian Gallery on Level 3 lets you experience the beauty and diversity of the South Asian sub-continent. Over 5,000 years of history is revealed through beautiful collection of religious objects and sculptures, decorative arts, arms and armour, miniature paintings and textiles (Pictures # 3 and 4)
Galleries of Africa (Egypt) on Level 3 showcases agricultural tools, everyday eating utensils, magnificent jewellery, funerary furnishings, mummies, and tomb (picture # 5). This gallery explores nearly 5,000 years (4000 BC - AD 400) of Egyptian cultural history.
We started our exploration of the Museum from Bat Cave on Level 2 (Philosophers’ Walk Wing). We entered the cave(s) (picture # 1). With bats, animatronics and atmospheric sights and sounds, the whole experience turned out to be a real-life horror movie scene. Highlights included looking at millions of roaches feeding on bat poop (picture # 3) and an audio-visual show that explores cave formation, how bats use echolocation and more, and a spectacular dramatization of bats in flight during a nightly exodus for food.
Before we entered the cave(s) however, we got introduced to various species of bats, including the Vampire Bat (picture # 2).
The ROM’s Bat Cave is a realistic portrayal of the St. Clair Cave in Jamaica, based on ROM fieldwork at the site. The new Bat Cave draws on this original ROM research as well as recent findings from a return trip to Jamaica in February 2010. It was originally opened in 1988.
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