Royal Ontario Museum

Royal Ontario Museum
French: Musée royal de l'Ontario
Royal Ontario Museum logo.svg
Royal Ontario Museum is located in Toronto
Royal Ontario Museum
Location of the gallery in Toronto
Established16 April 1912; 106 years ago (1912-04-16)
LocationToronto, Ontario, Canada
Coordinates43°40′04″N 79°23′41″W / 43°40′04″N 79°23′41″W / 43.667679; -79.394809
Built1910-14, addition: 1931-32
Original useMuseum
ArchitectDarling & Pearson, addition: Chapman & Oxley
SculptorWm. Oosterhoff
Reference no.Heritage Easement Agreement AT347470

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM, French: Musée royal de l'Ontario) is a museum of art, world culture and natural history in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is one of the largest museums in North America and the largest in Canada. It attracts more than one million visitors every year, making the ROM the most-visited in Canada.[2] The museum is north of Queen's Park, in the University of Toronto district, with its main entrance on Bloor Street West. The Museum subway station of the Toronto Transit Commission is named after the ROM and since 2008, it is decorated to resemble the institution's collection.

Established on 16 April 1912 and opened on 19 March 1914, the museum has maintained close relations with the University of Toronto throughout its history, often sharing expertise and resources.[3] The museum was under the direct control and management of the University of Toronto until 1968, when it became an independent Crown agency of the government of Ontario.[4][5] Today, the museum is Canada's largest field-research institution, with research and conservation activities that span the globe.[6]

With more than 6,000,000 items and 40 galleries, the museum's diverse collections of world culture and natural history contribute to its international reputation.[6] The museum contains notable collections of dinosaurs, minerals and meteorites, Near Eastern and African art, Art of East Asia, European history and Canadian history. It houses the world's largest collection of fossils from the Burgess Shale with more than 150,000 specimens.[7] The museum also contains an extensive collection of design and fine arts, including clothing, interior, and product design, especially Art Deco.


The Royal Ontario Museum was formally established on 16 April 1912[8][9] and was jointly governed by the Government of Ontario and the University of Toronto.[10] Its first assets were transferred from the University and the provincial Department of Education,[8] coming from its predecessor the Museum of Natural History and Fine Arts at the Toronto Normal School.[11] On 19 March 1914, at 3:00pm, the Duke of Connaught, also the Governor General of Canada, officially opened the Royal Ontario Museum to the public.[9] The museum's location at the edge of Toronto's built-up area, far from the city's central business district, 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 main entrance facing out onto Bloor Street housing five separate museums of the following fields: Archaeology, Palaeontology, Mineralogy, Zoology, and Geology. This was the first phase of a two-part construction plan that intended to expand the museum towards Queen's Park Crescent, ultimately creating an H-shaped structure.

The Royal Ontario Museum in 1930, three years prior to the opening of its renovation and expansion.

The first expansion to the Royal Ontario Museum publicly opened on 12 October 1933.[12] The renovation saw the construction of the south wing fronting onto Queen's Park and required the demolition of Argyle House, a Victorian mansion at 100 Queen's Park. As this occurred during the Great Depression, an effort was made to use primarily local building materials and to make use of workers capable of manually excavating the building's foundations.[12] Teams of workers alternated weeks of service due to the physically draining nature of the job.

In 1947, the ROM was dissolved as a body corporate, with all assets transferred to the University of Toronto.[13] This continued until 1968, when the Museum and the McLaughlin Planetarium were separated from the University to form a new corporation.[14]

On 26 October 1968, the ROM opened the McLaughlin Planetarium on the south end of the property after receiving a $2 million donation from Colonel R. Samuel McLaughlin.[15] By the 1980s, however, the planetarium's audiences were dwindling and due to budget cuts, the facility was forced to shut down in November 1995.[15] The space temporarily reopened from 1998 to 2002, after being leased to Children's Own Museum. In 2009, the ROM sold the building to the University of Toronto for $22 million and ensured that it would continue to be used for institutional and academic purposes.[16][17]

The McLaughlin Planetarium next to the museum. The planetarium was operated by the museum from 1968 to 2009.

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 started in 1978 and was 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.[18]

In 1989, activists complained about its Into the Heart of Africa exhibit, which featured stereotypes of Africans, forcing curator Jeanne Cannizzo to resign.[19]

Beginning in 2002, the museum underwent a major renovation and expansion project dubbed as Renaissance ROM. The Provincial and Federal governments, both supporters of this venture, contributed $60 million towards the project.[20] The campaign aimed not only to raise annual visitor attendance from 750,000 to between 1.3 and 1.6 million, but also to generate additional funding opportunities to support the museum's research, conservation, galleries and educational public programs.[21] The centrepiece of the project, the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, was a major addition to the building's original framework. The structure was created by architect Daniel Libeskind, whose design was selected from among 50 finalists in an international competition.[22] The design saw the Terrace Galleries torn down (the curatorial centre to the south remains) and replaced with a Deconstructivist crystalline-form structure, named after Michael Lee-Chin who pledged $30 million towards its construction. Existing galleries and buildings were also upgraded, along with the installation of multiple new exhibits over a period of months. The first phase of the Renaissance ROM project, the Ten Renovated Galleries in the Historic Buildings, opened to the public on 26 December 2005. The architectural opening for the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, however, took place less than 18 months later, on 2 June 2007.[21] The final cost of the project was about $270 million.[23]

The original building was listed by the City of Toronto on the Municipal Heritage Register on 20 June 1973, designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act in 2003, with a Heritage Easement on the buildings.[24]

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