on March 31, 2010
The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto is Ontario's and Canada's largest museum, with a collection of more than 6 million items. Unlike museums dedicated to one area of human activity, art or science, ROM is a traditional national museum housing all kinds of objects relating both to humanities and natural sciences. If you imagine British Museum combined with the Natural History Museum you wouldn't be far off.The museum is located north of Queen's Park and near the area occupied by the University of Toronto, with a dedicated subway station and plenty of public transport.The building itself is an impressive Neo Renaissance pile with recent de-constructivist additions by the famed Daniel Libeskind: shards of glass and aluminium sticking out of the front, striking and internally practical, but whether THAT good looking is arguable.But what matters is what's inside. And the ROM is a veritable treasure box indeed. We have only visited part of what the Museum has to offer and it still filled a busy half day - you probably need at least four hours to even scratch the surface of the place.We started at the new area devoted to fossils, including an excellent and informative display of dinosaur skeletons and other fossils, as well as some (even more impressive I think) exhibits of prehistoric mammals. The brand new Bat Cave also works well, though is perhaps a bit more of effect than substance, but the children loved it.After this, we spent a lot of time in the earth galleries, where an excellent collection of gems and minerals gives tribute to Canada's mining traditions.Natural history theme continued in the Diversity exhibition, with areas devoted to various habitats and ecosystems and pointing out in what way they were endangered.There were specific galleries and stations dotted around the museum that made it more child friendly, with more hands-on exhibits and members of staff and volunteers explaining and demonstrating things.We had no time for Canadian, Middle Eastern, Greece or Egyptian galleries, but we did make way to ROM's justly famous collections of Far Eastern artefacts, from the spectacular Ming Tomb to Chinese ceramic and everyday objects, beautifully transfixing temple wall paintings, Buddhist sculpture, Japanese armour, ceramics and sculpture. This was undoubtedly the highlight of the visit (which just goes to show that one can't predict what would strike children's interest - it was supposed to be dinosaurs, but M was more keen on the "acrobats" cave, and K loved the Chinese sculpture and ceramics).Unlike the British national museums, Royal Ontario Museum is not free to enter and the ticket will set you back 22 CAD (a whopping 14 GBP at the current exchange rate), and children over four years old pay 15 CAD. Admission is free every Wed for the last hour (4.30pm to 5.30pm) which might be actually one of the best options for exploring the collection if you spend longer time in Toronto, as one visit is definitely nowhere near enough. Despite the price, ROM is emphatically worth it and would be in my top10 of ever visited museums and art galleries. It's variety of themes and galleries makes it attractive to most if not all people, and its well designed galleries, helpful staff and positive approach to children make the visit a pleasure.
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