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11 Saving the ROM

The governing authority of the Royal Ontario Museum is the Board of Trustees, referred to here as the Board. The Board has 21 members, 15 appointed by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario,

3 elected by ROM members, and 3 through the positions they occupy, namely: the ROM Director; the President of the U of T; and the Chair of the Governing Council of the U of T.


With many outstandingly successful business leaders and financial specialists, the current Board is chaired by an eminent executive, with extensive experience in the corporate and government sectors. In assuming the role of Board Chair, he made reference to the museum’s “ground-breaking research,” saying that “we will continue to build on ROM’s reputation as a welcoming and truly global cultural institution.” The museum’s research achievements and global status are attributable to the curators, currently at the lowest staff numbers in over half a century.


Needless to say, most of the museum information the Board receives during their quarterly meetings comes from the Director. He is a great speaker and has obviously impressed them, but the trustees do not have to work inside the new ROM he is creating.

The Board Policy


Changes are made to the Board Policy over the years and when I discovered the disturbing state of the ROM, late last year, I downloaded the policy—I had to see if there had been any major changes.


My primary concern was the mandate of the museum, which reads:


“ (a) The collection and exhibition of objects, documents, and books of any kind to illustrate and make known to the public the natural history of Ontario, Canada and the world;


(b) The collection and exhibition of objects, documents, and books of any kind to illustrate and make known to the public the history of man in all ages; and


(c) The promotion of education, teaching, research, public programs and publications in any or all fields referred to above.”


Fortunately, the mandate had not been changed and the ROM was still committed to natural history and culture—collecting, research, publishing and teaching—everything I did when I worked there as a curator. So how is this commensurate with reducing the curatorial staff to 16? Clearly the mandate is not being adhered to.


Following the Mandate heading is Vision, which reads that the ROM is:


“To be recognized globally as an essential destination for making sense of the changing natural and cultural worlds.”


The ROM's global recognition is attributable to the curators, curators conducting research on the collections they help to grow. Making their discoveries known worldwide through scholarly publications, popular articles, and media appearances, they are the ones maintaining the ROM's global recognition.


The images of Tyrannosaurus rex currently adorning the Queen's Park entrance reflects the work of ROM curator David Evans, one of the world's leading dinosaur researchers. If it were not for the curatorial staff, the ROM would lack global recognition and be little more than a provincial museum of little consequence.


Facing the facts


The ROM is a museum of nature and culture, NOT a museum of art, culture and nature as erroneously signified by the heading that now appears on the ROM website.


We are fortunate in Ontario to have so many wonderful art galleries, including the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), just 2 km from the ROM, housing over 70,000 works of art. And just across the street from the ROM is the Gardiner Museum, with over 5,000 object, primarily of ceramics. One of my favourite galleries is the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, in Vaughan, with its collection of over 6,500 paintings.


The addition of art collections to a museum of natural history and culture is incomprehensible. Would the addition of a dinosaur section to the AGO make any sense? Would anyone of sound mind add Egyptian mummies to the McMichael gallery?


I urge the Board of Trustees to make the extremely difficult but sound decision and remove the Director from office, along with his senior administrators. Their salaries can be used to rebuild the grossly depleted curatorial staff. The ROM can then return to the normality and collegiality of times past, as a museum of world renown.




Link to Board Policy:


The quotes from the Board Chair are from:

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