The Royal Ontario Museum (locally known as the ROM to rhyme with Tom) has been in the public eye a lot recently for its recent expansion and unusual exterior design.
Whether you love or hate the new look, though, it really what’s inside that counts, isn’t it? The permanent collections and the temporary exhibits are the cornerstones of any museum. So what will you find in the ROM once you pass through those glass doors?
The Permanent Collection
The dinosaur display, the great totem pole in the staircase, the Buddha room in the Chinese galleries, the Paul Kane paintings in the Canadian section, and of course the ancient Greek vases … regular visitors count these among their favourite features of the Royal Ontario Museum and often head straight for them like old friends when they visit.
If you’re a first time visitor, though, you’ll want to get a floor plan before you set off on your journey of discovery in Canada’s largest museum of natural history and world culture. Here are some of the galleries that might interest you:
The biggest crowd-pleaser here is probably the Dinasours Gallery... always a hit with the kids (of all ages).
One of my favourite sections of the ROM is the Gallery of Birds, which hundreds of species depicted in mid-flight – a marvelous display of diversity in the winged world.
You’ll find fossils of extinct mammals and the Bat Cave as well.
For travellers, the Canadian galleries provide a great introduction to Canadian culture and history. In fact, if this is your first visit to Canada, I’d recommend a stop here early in your journey, as it will help you make sense of the things, places, ideas and maybe even the people you’ll encounter as you make your way through this land of Crazy Canucks. The “Sigmund Samuel Gallery of Canada” displays and attempts to explain the country through furniture, objets d’art and early Canadian paintings. The “Daphne Cockwell Gallery of Canada: First Peoples” has fine examples of Aboriginal artifacts and art, as well as a large selection of Paul Kane paintings.
The Royal Ontario Museum boasts one of the biggest collections of Chinese art and architectural remnants in the world. Highlights include a Ming tomb, Buddha paintings from a temple, statues, and a reconstruction of an Imperial Palace building.
Other cultures with substantial collections include Ancient Cyprus, Korea, Japan, Africa, Americas, Asia-Pacific, Greece, Middle East, Egypt, and Europe. There’s also a multicultural textile and costume gallery.
Restaurants and Shop
The expensive place, c5 Restaurant Lounge, is on the fifth floor. In the basement, or Level B1 as it’s coyly called, you’ll find Food Studio, a cafeteria for those with a smaller budget, although still not “bargain basement”. (The old museum seems to like to keep the classes all in their proper place, eh?) I must admit, though, the basement food is a vast improvement over the previous budget place on the first floor (now closed).
The ROM shop offers books, cards, games and gift items for your brainy friends (or maybe even yourself?).
WANT TO SAVE MONEY? You could save substantially if you're visiting several Toronto tourist attractions if you buy the Toronto City Pass.
The Royal Ontario Museum hosts international exhibits and offers lots of tours, educational programming, musical events, etc. Check their web site for current offerings: http://www.rom.on.ca/ where you’ll also find current admission fees and hours of operation.
In the Neighbourhood:
Park Hyatt Hotel Toronto: Formerly known as the Park Plaza Hotel Toronto. Built between 1929 and 1936, this grand old lady graces the corner of Avenue Road and Bloor Street West. The rooftop bar on the 18th floor offers a great panorama of the city and over the years has been popular with the Canadian literary elite.
Queen’s Park: Just to the south of the Royal Ontario Museum. At the far end of the park sits the Ontario parliament buildings.
Gardiner Museum: Across the street from the ROM. Specializes in ceramics. Often has interesting temporary exhibits. Because of the large size of both museums, I don’t recommend trying to do both the ROM and the Gardiner in one day unless this is your only day to see them.
Bata Shoe Museum: Just down the street at 327 Bloor Street West. More than four thousand years of footwear from all over the world. One of the quirkiest Toronto museums.
Yorkville: Shopping and art gallery district. Small galleries featuring individual artists, Inuit and aboriginal artists, and Ontario artisans (at The Guild Shop).
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