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With social media, says the ROM Director and CEO Janet Carding, people ‘are looking for something they can personalize or customize and be part of.’ (FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
With social media, says the ROM Director and CEO Janet Carding, people ‘are looking for something they can personalize or customize and be part of.’ (FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

The Royal Ontario Museum makes it to 100. Now, the real work begins Add to ...

Lord, too, is bullish about the ROM’s prospects as an encyclopedic museum over the next 100 years. “Not only do I think ROM will be here; it will be even stronger. Look at the Louvre: It’s more popular, stronger than it was 200 years ago. … Toronto is going to be an ever-bigger city, even more multicultural than it is today, and those people will have even more interest in the ROM. The thing that’s amazing about museums is how adaptable they are. They were among the first places to have gaslights on at night, for instance. People like to think of museums as places that never change. But really, they’re among the most rapidly changing institutions in our society.”


Some may choose to cleave the history of the ROM into two epochs: BC, as in Before the (Michael Lee-Chin) Crystal, and AC. But any notion of the ROM as a drowsy Queen’s Park dowager rudely awakened to the 21st century by architect Daniel Libeskind’s cold, crystalline “kiss” is largely a myth. From its inception, the site has seen additions, revisions and deletions, architectural and organizational churn.

When it opened a century ago, it wasn’t one institution but five semi-autonomous entities – devoted to paleontology, archeology, zoology, mineralogy and geology – under one roof, each its own “Royal Ontario Museum.”

After its 1914 launch, the biggest physical changes occurred in 1933 (construction of the now loosely called Weston Wing, on Queen’s Park), 1968 (opening of the McLaughlin Planetarium, later briefly a children’s museum, now ROM offices and storage), 1984 (building of what is now the Louise Hawley Stone Curatorial Centre, north of the planetarium, and the Terrace Galleries facing Bloor Street) and 2002-11 (Renaissance ROM, starting with demolition of the Terrace Galleries, and ending with the opening of new third-level galleries).

By the numbers


Number of full-time staff, March, 1914.


Number of full-time staff, March, 2014.


Cost, including display cases, of original 1914 building, now known as West Wing.


Cost of Renaissance ROM, including Michael Lee-Chin Crystal and endowments.


Attendance at Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids (Feb.-May 2000), best-attended ROM showsince it began hosting major exhibitions in 1970s.

100 Number of Paul Kane paintings donated to ROM in 1912 by Sir Edmund Osler.

1912-1946 Tenure of archaeologist/ROM co-founder Charles Trick


Number of stuffed passenger-pigeon skins in collection (the bird became extinct in 1914).


Age at death of Bull, an arthritic African white rhino, sold to museum by Toronto Zoo in 2008-09. Now taxidermied and displayed, Schad Gallery of Biodiversity.


Operating revenue 2012-2013.


Estimated age, in years, of Ming Dynasty Tomb of General Zu Dashou, main floor, ROM.


Amount of low-interest loan, 2008-2009, from Ontario Financing Authority.


The year the McLaughlin Planetarium closed. Built by ROM in 1968; now owned by University of Toronto and leased to museum for offices and storage.


Attendance in 2012-2013.


Attendance, 75th anniversary fiscal year


World-record span, in metres, of moose antlers donated in early 20th century.

Single page

Children in the museum’s Saturday Morning Club in 1946, sketching armour displayed in Samuel Hall/Currelly Gallery. The main-floor hall/gallery links the museum’s original 1933 west-wing building to the 1933 addition (now known as the Hilary and Galen Weston Wing and the Weston Family Wing).


View of the western exterior of the original museum building, taken from the southwest circa 1914.

Staff standing at the then-main (north) entrance of the original ROM building, 1914. The museum had about 20 full-time employees opening day Mar. 19, 1914.

View of the original 1914 building, shot from Bloor Street West from the north-west. Note the modest entrance, the Romanesque exterior and Venetian-style windows fronting what is now Philosopher’s Walk, University of Toronto.

Dancers at the gala 1965 Hungarian Ball in the ROM’s famous Rotunda. The octagonal lobby, with a gold and multi-coloured mosaic ceiling, was part of the addition completed in 1933. For more than 70 years the Rotunda, its doors facing east toward Queen’s Park, served as the museum’s main entry.
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