Music, drinks, food, and dinosaurs. Yup, dinosaurs. Just a typical night at the Royal Ontario Museum for their popular Friday Night Live series. This is how I spent last Friday night, with close friends and my sister, to celebrate her birthday. This popular event runs every Friday night for a two month period, and it is amazing to see the hallowed halls of a museum being transformed into areas for bands, conversations, and good food. The inner museum person in me has little panic attacks when I think about food/drinks in gallery space (eek! Think of the pest possibilities!!), but it really is great to see that a museum is THE place to be on a Friday night.
Growing up in Ontario, the ROM was one of the places that you visited with family and on school trips. I think my earliest memory of the Museum was the old dinosaur gallery, before the ROM Renaissance of the 2000s. It was dark, and there were really big bones. Child of the 80s, The Land Before Time was a staple, and I remember thinking how cool it was to see a ‘Sharp Tooth’ in real life. We visited sporadically before I started high school, but then it was years before I returned, after the installation of the ever contentious Michael Lee Chin Crystal (side note: I like the Crystal).
Visiting the ROM, you can wander and see their paleontological collections, natural history collections, and galleries showcasing Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, China, Japan, Africa, Europe, along with their textiles and mineralogy collections, which is one of my favourites. I’m such a girl: I like shiny things. Off the main rotunda, you can find their Canada Gallery, showcasing art, furniture, and artifacts which are significant to our country. This is my favourite gallery, and I’m always sure to visit my favourite artifact, their Rebellion Box. I see it, geek out, then move along.
While it’s wonderful to view objects from cultures from around the world, the one area that I feel the ROM leaves me wanting is a gallery outlining more of our own history. Yes, there is the Canada Gallery, but even that gallery leaves me wanting. This past Fall, I visited Quebec City, and I fell in love. The history, the architecture, the culture, the museums. The Quebecois people know how to tell their story. In the musée de la civilisation, one of their permanent galleries is Le Temps des Québécois, and it outlines the 400+ years of history that the Province of Quebec has. I was fascinated. I am a History and Canadian Studies major, so I’m familiar with the history, but museums give the opportunity to educate and showcase, and the musée de la civilisation did just this.
In my humble opinion, the provincial story in Ontario is not being adequately told. The Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau tells the national story and city/municipal museums tell the story of their own communities, but the history of Ontario is somehow lost in the shuffle. I would love to see an exhibition showcasing the history of the province, from the earliest First Nation inhabitants, to its creation, struggles, expansions, and how it has become the most populous province in the country. How did Ontarians react to the World Wars? Why did they react this way? How about the Upper Canada Rebellion, what happened there? From farms to cities, the north to our border with the US, there is a story waiting to be told. This is what the musée de la civilisation did for the history of Quebec, and wouldn’t the Royal Ontario Museum be the ideal place to showcase the history of this province?
Until that day, I will continue to visit the ROM, look at cultural materials from around the world, wonder at pre-historic giants that roamed the earth, and visit my beloved Rebellion Box.