For our family, a museum visit is often a highlight when we’re travelling. In fact, I think Hubby and I have taken in at least one museum in every large city we’ve ever visited. And last weekend we were in Toronto to farewell our out-of-town guests before they hopped on a cross-Canada train trip.
So before driving home on Sunday, we decided to squeeze in a tour of The Royal Ontario Museum, or “the ROM.” We debated whether we should bother or not because we could only spare a couple of hours (since we had to drive back to Ottawa that day) and also because we had two vehicles to park. But in the end, I knew how much Hubby wanted to see it, so we decided to go for it.
Established in 1912, the ROM describes itself as “among the world’s leading museums of natural history, and of world cultures.” I’d agree. This museum is world-class in terms of the facilities, collections, and special exhibitions.
Similar to the challenge that faced the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa — how does one elegantly modify a historic stone architecture? — the ROM has recently undergone a partial transformation. It chose, via an international competition, to build what is called ” The Crystal,” with canted walls that do not touch the sides of the existing heritage buildings, save for where pedestrian crossing occurs and to close the envelope between the new form and the existing walls.
When it was opened in 2007, there were many who did not like the look of The Crystal (to say the least!), with one Globe & Mail writer referring to it as oppressive, angsty and hellish. What can I say? … I thought it looked spectacular. (And frankly, if it hadn’t been for the controversy over The Crystal’s architecture, I probably wouldn’t have even taken an interest in this museum at all.) Granted, if I had 270 million dollars to spend on something, I’m sure I could stretch it further than one museum reno. But perhaps that is why it’s so expensive to visit this museum (more on that later).
Here is a photo of The Crystal that I took from the street:
Once you enter the museum, you are inside The Crystal and its three-story atrium. And it was there that I nearly choked. On the entrance fees, that is.
For two adults and one child, we paid $81.50. (The general admission fee for an adult is is $24 and to also see the special exhibition, the fee is $31.) Let’s see … adult entry for The Louvre in Paris is $8, and children are under $3; adult entry into the Museum of Modern Art in NYC is $20, and children under 16 are free; and the Uffizi Gallery in Italy is under $15 for an adult. Not sure how the ROM came up with its pricing, but I can’t recommend it as a family-friendly destination when it charges such a high entry fee for children over 4 years of age ($16 general admission, $19.50 with special exhibit entry) and does not offer a family group rate.
Okay, enough about the fees … we sucked it up because we had already trucked the whole family there, so we might as well see the place! And what a place it was! Enormous. In fact, in the three hours we spent there, we didn’t even see everything on the first floor! The first floor alone houses the following collections: Japan, Asian Special Exhibitions, China, Korea, Canadian Special Exhibitions, Canada, First People special Exhibitions, and First Peoples. Of those, we managed to see Japan, Asian Special Exhibitions, China, and Canada.
But my most memorable takeaway from our visit was the chance to see Edward Burtynsky’s work. I’d seen Burtynsky’s work in a documentary and it had left an impression on Hubby, Stella and I. This Canadian artist does large format (extremely large!) photography of industrial landscapes. On exhibit at the ROM was “Oil,” as described by the museum’s website as:
“Edward Burtynsky: Oil features fifty-three beautiful and provocative large-format photographs by internationally renowned Canadian artist Edward Burtynsky. His images explore the hotly-debated effects of oil extraction, our international dependency on the substance, and with an unflinching eye, Burtynsky presents us with the reality of oil production as its role in our civilization undergoes massive transformation.”
His massive photographs are so detailed and almost surreal that they don’t really register in your mind as photographs. And then when your mind does register that these images are real, and this is how we really live here on earth, you feel dirty, or at the very least, ridiculous in your slavish pursuit for oil. Burtynsky describes the overriding theme of his work as “nature transformed through industry,” and I would recommend checking out his work in person whenever you might get a chance. (Until then, you can check out his website which includes video clips and images.)
So that, my friends, was our visit to the ROM. (Oh, and then after paying the hefty fee to get in, the day got more expensive because both vehicles had parking tickets under the windsheilds when we returned to them. Awesome-sauce.)
Did I provide enough info for you to decide if you’d like to visit next time you’re in Toronto? Let me know if there is anything specific I can share.