The biggest museum in all of Canada, the Royal Ontario Museum has a massive array of exhibitions available to the public both in-person and online.
Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
In some ways, the Royal Ontario Museum is the museum in Canada. It’s both the largest and most-visited museum in the country with over a million guests each year. The items in its collections number in the millions and there are dozens of galleries to explore. Some of the biggest permanent exhibits include ones with dinosaur fossils, art from numerous ancient civilizations and interactive galleries geared towards children.
There are also always multiple temporary exhibitions and installations brought to the ROM. As well, for those who can’t visit the museum in person, there is the ROM At Home collection. This includes educational lectures, displays of objects at the museum and different live shows, which you can enjoy online.
Location and Admission
The Royal Ontario Museum’s address is 100 Queen’s Park which is next to the University of Toronto. The ROM is open from Tuesdays to Sundays from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. It is closed on Mondays and public holidays. As of early 2024, general admission prices are approximately the following (where they may vary by a few dollars depending on the day):
- Adults (20-64): $26
- Seniors (65+): $21
- Students: $20
- Youth (15-19): $20
- Children (4-14): $16
Children ages 3 and under are free. There is one section of the museum that is free and that is the Daphne Cockwell Gallery. This gallery covers Indigenous history and culture. It’s open to all for no charge during normal operating hours.
What to Expect at the Museum
The ROM contains around 40 different galleries. There are a ton of exhibitions to visit and there are always temporary ones brought in from around the world. Some of these feature exhibitions are free with the cost of general admission, but some cost extra to visit.
An example of a feature exhibition is Death: Life’s Greatest Mystery. It runs until April 7th, 2024. This exhibition explores mortality from a cultural and natural perspective. Buying a ticket to see this exhibition costs between $26 and $28, depending which day you book.
There are a number of ROM galleries that are permanent. They can be divided into three different categories.
Natural History at the Museum
The second floor of the ROM is focused on natural history with displays about animals and plants ranging from the present day to millions of years ago. The most popular attraction is the collection of dinosaur skeletons. It includes the biggest dinosaur on display in Canada, a Barosaurus that is over 25 metres long. There are also fossils of the early mammals such as saber-tooth tigers and giant beavers.
The Schad Gallery of Biodiversity covers animals from modern times and focuses on endangered and recently extinct species. Some of what’s on display includes pandas, white rhinos, rare types of flowers and more. Subsections of this large exhibition include a bird gallery as well as a “Bat Cave” which is a re-creation of a life-sized bat habitat.
There is also the Teck Suite of Galleries: Earth’s Treasures which focuses on the mineral world. Exhibits here include meteorites, precious gemstones and other geological specimens. A highlight is the “Light of the Desert” which is the biggest faceted cerussite gem in the world.
Arts & Culture
There are a wide variety of exhibitions about various civilizations, ranging from the Stone Age up to the 20th century. Artifacts from ancient Egypt, Greece, China and Rome are all on display, with each collection being the largest of its kind in Canada. One of the biggest sections in this part of the museum is the Gallery of Africa, the Americas and Asia-Pacific. This gallery covers the cultures of different Indigenous groups from around the world with art and various kinds of objects on display.
There are more modern exhibitions as well. One of the most prominent is the Gallery of Chinese Architecture which is the most extensive collection of Chinese architecture outside of China. This includes a full tomb from the Ming Dynasty which is one of the most notable pieces in the entire museum. As well, there are the Samuel European Galleries which show how art and other decorative styles in Europe changed from the middle ages to the modern era.
The ROM includes a couple of galleries that allow guests to interact more closely with the displays. One is the Gallery of Hands-on Biodiversity which focuses on the natural world. There are all sorts of animal and plant specimens that you can touch, and the exhibits are suitable for those of all ages to enjoy.
There is also the CIBC Discovery Gallery which is where kids can learn in fun ways. Under the watchful eye of museum staff children can try on different costumes, dig for fossils of their own and closely examine artifacts like meteorites in hands-on ways.
ROM At Home
For those who want to explore the museum without having to go to the museum itself, there is the option to do so. The ROM At Home collection has a wide variety of content to explore. There are ROM Speaks lectures from various experts, informational videos about items at the museum, and the Curator Conversations series. This last item is a regular series of panel discussions that are available on Zoom and open to audience questions and feedback. They cover topics ranging from Canadian art, the history of botany, public response to the pandemic and more.
There is also the ROMKids Show which caters to a younger audience with visual demonstrations and lots of energy. It’s broadcast live each week on Instagram and can be watched later on YouTube as well.
A Brief History of the Museum
The Royal Ontario Museum was founded in 1912. Run by both the provincial government and the University of Toronto initially, it originally consisted of five separate museums under one banner. These different buildings were not officially combined into one single museum until the 1950s.
The museum expanded for the first time in 1933 with two new wings on the main building. The University of Toronto gained full control over the ROM in 1947 and the museum became an official part of the university for two decades. In 1968 the ROM and the now-closed McLaughlin Planetarium separated from the university to become their own entities.
The most recent major renovation of the museum was in 2002 with the “Renaissance ROM” project. This large fundraising effort was quite successful and the centrepiece of the new additions was the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, an aluminum and glass structure added onto the outside of the museum. This both expanded the museum’s exhibition capacity and also provides a striking visual display.
For more information, visit the Royal Ontario Museum website.
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