Origins

I had my second swing at the Royal Ontario Museum today, or ROM as the kids call it. They really call it that. With no IMAX deadlines, I was able to spend many hours exploring the place, which has a large, angular, crystal-inspired modern facade that I imagine was controversial when introduced. While I'm not that I'm against those sort of buildings at all - the great Opera House in Helsinki was a good example of a fantastic design - what was a little disappointing was that it was a good idea poorly executed. It was hampered by obvious and intrusive structural beams that detracted from the clean look of the front and leaves it as less impressive than perhaps the architects dreamt it would be.

I spent a little time with the anthropological collections, but I'm a bit over ancient Chinese ornaments by this stage and kept on moving. There were some more interesting animal collections and displays, but there wasn't too much to the exhibits beyond 'look at this stuffed animal'. There were a few wings of Canada collections, which were interesting. Their issues with the indigenous peoples are not dissimilar to ours, but the cases mostly held tools and examples of artistry. The North American environment section was also a surface-level examination, mostly just consisting of a few beaver pelts, fake wolves and a forest setting. It wasn't enough to really make me connect with it.

I gave up with the self-restraint and headed to the dinosaurs. They had been advertised on huge banners hanging off the building's exterior, and I was looking forward to what was meant to be a pretty special exhibit. The second storey had a lot of pieces laid out for perusal, but again mostly just numbered with only a few larger plaques to elaborate on the context. You can't really not enjoy it, but it was little unoriginally presented.

Thankfully, I'd paid for the bigger 'ultimate experience' ticket housed in the basement level. This was a brand new dinosaur experience featuring bones and species only discovered in the last twenty years, some really quite unknown and freshly displayed. It was really nice to get a reminder that we're still learning so much in the field, when our knowledge of the 'big' dinosaurs can feel strangely static when everyone pretends they don't like them in adulthood. There is so much diversity in the new finds, with fascinating and weird horn protrusions, facial ridges, sails along the spines and more. Tiny little winged creatures, and huge, long-necked ones you've never heard of. It was very cool.

It was also a little more engagingly presented, with tablets built into the displays to allow closer inspection, and information boards with a lot more data on hand. Hopefully it is preceding an ongoing to revamp of the museum, since the new facade is recent and they are presumably intending to keep freshening up the place. The exhibition was a nice reminder of the eternal beauty of evolution and the fearsome strangeness that such simple rules can create. I miss the old, lumbering mammals and herbivore crocodiles. Of course, one fears that if they made it to the time of humanity, being what we are such creatures would likely go the way of the American bison.

Having spent the late morning and much of the afternoon there, I headed out down the city centre again, enjoying it without the constant rain that had plagued yesterday's enjoyment. I found my way back to the hostel, and then after a reprieve, headed back out along the restaurant ship on which the accommodation is situated. While eating a bowl of pasta, the restaurant's atmosphere was interrupted by the sound of singing. A spontaneous performance from a choir had interrupted traffic and was singing a vaguely familiar song at the cars that squeezed by. It was a bit odd. Tomorrow, I'll be taking a day trip to Niagara Falls. I'd hesitated, but then figured it's one of those big tourism mainstays you just have do at one point in your life. Might as well be tomorrow.