The Royal Ontario Museum: Architecture, ART, and Culture in the heart of Toronto, Ontario
Canada’s Premier Museum of Art and Culture is the Royal Ontario Museum
Affectionately nicknamed by locals as the ROM, the museum rises above the bustle of Bloor Street in Toronto, Ontario, as a giant crystal organically decorating the original brick and terracotta building. The ROM is every bit the modern, splashy design it looks, added to the classic, steady 1914 foundation of the original building.
Vision and good planning during the decades have transformed the ROM into a cultural and art activity hub, inviting neighbourhoods and tourists alike to engage and explore art, history, culture, and the world with tours, lectures, walks, and activities.
The Royal Ontario Museum is “Canada’s largest museum of world cultures and natural history.” -ROM.
The exhibits are an intentional combination of classic white rooms stacked top to bottom with paintings of well-known artists, to vibrant multi-sensory learning spaces. The overall experience is intellectual and satisfying because it offers the visitor what you would expect from a world-class museum.
More than a museum, the ROM is a vibrant contributor to life in Toronto.
2022 marked the beginning of constructing what would transform the ROM into a world-class example of Canadian architecture at 100 Queen’s Park. The addition of a 175,000 square feet expansion was billed more than a renovation. It was a Renaissance. The exterior is one-quarter glass combined with fitted steel beams specially manufactured and arranged 1 to 25 metres in length. The entire piece represents 3,500 tons of steel and is a win of modern engineering and design: innovative and complex.
The design came from celebrity architect Daniel Libeskind, who sketched it on the back of a napkin at a ROM wedding. You can see the spectacular crystal formation as a humble ink drawing of interlocking prisms on a rendering of the napkin posted on the ROM website.
Daniel Libeskind is a visionary architect of Polish descent raised in America. He is famous for his Holocaust memorial designs in Amsterdam and Canada, along with Jewish museums and the military history museum of Dresden, Germany. His studio was chosen to recreate the museum in 2002.
The $250 million renovation took until 2007 to complete. The funding came in part from first-generation Jamaican-Chinese businessman Michael Lee-Chin.
As a successful new immigrant valued at 1.7 billion in 2022, many find his story of philanthropy as interesting as the stunning crystal he’s famous for donating $30 million towards.
Chin arrived in Canada in 1970 on a government scholarship to study civil engineering at McMaster University. Michael Lee-Chin worked as a bouncer while studying for a Master’s degree in Business. Excellent jobs with Canadian investment firms and the launch of his first company, Kicks Athletics, seeded his fortunes. The success of subsequent companies and wise investment choices, like his investment in Commercial Bank Jamaica, made him a superstar of philanthropy. Ontario appointed him to the Order of Ontario in 2017.
Inside the Royal Ontario Museum and Special Features
The interior is partitioned into 40 gallery and exhibition spaces, airy, grand, tiny, crowded with many paintings, or cozy with fewer paintings. The ROM is home to 13 million artworks and cultural artefacts. Each space is carefully curated to enhance your museum visit and enrich your understanding.
The gallery hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 – 5:30 pm. While there, you can visit the gallery boutique to buy your pop art objects or enjoy coffee in a charming café designed for visitors to rest tired legs (there is ample space to cover!). While you are there, enjoy the view of the beautiful space and exterior foliage.
General admission tickets cost $23 – 35 for adults; however, those on a budget can enjoy the third Tuesday of each month with free entry from 4:30 pm – 8:30 pm.
ROM Cultural Activities
There is so much more to the ROM than just art. Free events could fill every page of your agenda. Follow the speaker series ROM Curator Conversations and ROM Connects for “compelling voices on hot topics” with industry experts and “captivating documentary or thought-provoking lectures” available for those with an insatiable curiosity. Or send your kids out to the ROM After Dark for the late-night museum crowd or one of the many activities designed specifically for them.
ROMWalks and ROMWalks Plus. Art lovers still need activity when public spaces like the ROM close for renovations and pandemics. In 1980, a renovation closure sparked the much-loved ROMWalks. Join the volunteer-led walking tours of neighbourhoods around the city of Toronto. Experts and enthusiasts lead the tours exploring architecture, art, stories, history and more. Whether you go with friends or plan a private event, you’ll re-tell the stories you learn while on a ROMWalk for decades to come.
Currently Highlighting at the Royal Ontario Museum
The ROM’s currently hyped exhibition is Fantastic Beasts™: The Wonder of Nature.
“The Wonder of Nature explores the links between the magical creatures of the wizarding world and the remarkable animals in our natural world, encouraging a greater connection to our planet and empowering us all to be advocates for its care. You will be awed by the powerful combination of science, nature, and imagination as you explore fantastic beasts in all their forms and learn how these animals inspired some of the world's most incredible stories and folklore. If you’ve ever dreamed of stepping inside Newt Scamander’s magical suitcase, then here’s your chance.”