Thursday, June 02, 2005

Toronto Zoo and the ROM

Wednesday, Mary took Tigana and Kasia to the Toronto Zoo, thus giving me five hours to explore the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). I was particularly keen to see the featured exhibit and spent about four hours working my way through that.

I mostly had the place to myself, as various busloads of students or gaggle of tourists would flood in, then recede again a few minutes later to leave me in peace and quiet. Most people would look at a few skeletons, watch 30 seconds or so of one of the 7-10 minute videos, and move on. I feel sorry for the curators who spend so much time working on those little cards attached to the exhibits that nobody (well, besides me, I mean) actually reads. I found it fascinating to read the arguments, then get to look at the actual evidence -- sitting right there in the display case -- for myself. One is certainly struck by how difficult much of the task of reconstruction is, as I'd view the 10 foot enlarged photo, and then look at the actual 2 inch fossil under discussion and know that I would never have detected, let alone been able to correctly interpret, the evidence being put forward.

The exhibit opens with a diorama created in the late 1980s, and then a second diorama with the same three dinosaurs in the same poses, but this time depicted using the best information as of January 2005, and the difference between the two scenes is startling, to say the least: Suddenly one is looking at a flock of flightless birds a la ostriches or emu, (albeit significantly scarier) and not dinosaurs at all… Fascinating stuff -- and once again proves that everything my Grade 3 teacher taught us was wrong.

Once having satiated myself on dinosaurs, I joined a 50 minute tour of the natural history floor, which was moderately interesting, if too fast to get more than a glimpse of a small selection of the exhibits. Here I was the tourist in a hurry, though I'd hoped an overview would allow me to focus in on the most relevant exhibits in my remaining time. In the event, I ended my visit with a quick tour of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco exhibits - some really great furniture design there! - and the obligatory half hour in the giftshop. Much of the rest of the ROM was undergoing renovations, and the addition of a Cyrstal Courtyard, a new wing that threatens to dwarf the older buildings, though I do rather like the design.

Meanwhile, at the zoo, Tigana was getting to ride the camels

and Kasia was falling in love with the zebras and giraffes.

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