Historic and Cultural Treasures at the Royal Ontario Museum

North America - Editor - 28 February 2014

Historic and Cultural Treasures at the Royal Ontario Museum

Dedicated to natural history and world culture, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto was established in April 1912, opening to the public on March 19th, 1914. Closely associated with the University of Toronto, the museum is the largest field-research institution in Canada, coordinating research and conservation projects around the globe. Visitors to the museum will find forty galleries housing over six million items related to natural history and world culture.

In addition to its significant collections of minerals, meteorites and dinosaurs, the museum houses the largest collection in the world of fossils from the Burgess Shale. Located in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia, the area that came to be known as the Burgess Shale was first discovered in 1909 by paleontologist Charles Walcott. The range of organisms was so vast and their state of preservation so unusual that Walcott returned to the region year after year until 1924, by which time he had gathered some 65,000 specimens which he was attempting to describe and categorize. It was only in 1962 that Alberto Simonetta realized that Walcott had erroneously been trying to categorize the fossils into living taxa, whereas they were in a league of their own. In light of this discovery the Geological Survey of Canada resumed excavations at the Walcott Quarry with some astounding discoveries, many of which can be seen at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Other natural history collections include complete dinosaur skeletons, as well as birds, reptiles, marine animals and mammals from the Jurassic period through to the Cretaceous period. One of the highlights of this collection is the skeleton of a Barosaurus – a giant, long-necked, long-tailed herbivore dinosaur, nicknamed 'Gordo'. Another gallery depicts the development of mammals following the extinction of dinosaurs, and has more than 400 specimens on display, along with fossil plants, insects, turtles and fish. More than 30 fossils are of extinct mammals, while others have lived on into the modern era with some adaptations.

The World Culture galleries contain a fascinating array of items from around the world and through the ages depicting the culture of various ethnic groups. Here visitors can gain insight in to the culture of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada, and the early settlers from other lands. Other displays include cultural objects from ancient Rome, as well as ancient and modern China, Korea, Japan, Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Europe.

Certainly, there is plenty to discover at the Royal Ontario Museum and visitors should allow plenty of time to explore its treasures at leisure.


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