Monday, 30 July 2018




Hello Musings readers! As your Editors-in-Chief are busy finishing up our internships at Myseum of Toronto (Kathleen) and the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre (Amy), we cannot believe how fast the summer has flown by. To prepare for quickly approaching classes and another wonderful year at the iSchool, Musings will be taking a short hiatus for the month of August. We cannot wait to return in September with tons of new and exciting Musings content!

Kathleen [Left] and Amy [Right] at iSchool's Getting Started. Photo courtesy of Roshni Thawani. 
Our Contributing Editors have worked incredibly hard to provide you with interesting and insightful writing throughout the summer. Some of the many highlights include:

1) An exploration of the criteria conservators use to determine which artifacts to save

2) A discussion on how your personal belongings can become part of museum collections.

3) Exhibition reviews of everything from Curious Creatures at Ripley's Aquarium, to Ellen Gallagher’s Nu-Nile at the Power Plant.

4) A reflection on how Toronto murals echo both private and public memories.

Furthermore, we successfully continued our summer columns-- The Grad School Guide, which shares the secret spots of UofT campus, and Internship Check-In (take a peak at the lives of MMSt interns at Lord Cultural Resources!).

Another exciting development included launching TWO brand new columns-- Muse News, which reported on the controversy surrounding Toronto’s Banksy exhibition, and Program Reviews, which provided an insightful reflection on UN Live and Michael Edson’s talk at the Aga Khan Museum.

We are beyond excited for the year ahead! When we return, you can expect more of the columns you love, and hopefully some new editions to the Musings team. If you’re an incoming student, welcome! There are so many opportunities to get involved in the Museum Studies program outside of the classroom. In September we will be looking for new writers to join the Musings team, so keep an eye out for your friendly Musings’ Editors-in-Chief at Orientation.

New students can also get involved by joining the iSchool mentorship program where you’ll be matched with an upper-year student who will help you navigate your first year. Also in September, the Museum Studies Student Association (MUSSA) will hold their next election, and there will be lots of opportunities for first-year students. To stay up-to-date with all the excitement, make sure to check our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest news.

Thank you to all our readers and contributors for making the summer season of Musings so successful. If you have any feedback for our team, please reach out to us at

Have a terrific August!

Friday, 27 July 2018




On Saturday, July 21st, I set out for the Ontario Science Centre, donning my Back to the Future t-shirt and hoverboard necklace. The reason for this expedition was POPnology, an exhibition visiting from May 19 to August 6, 2018. I eagerly walked into Proctor & Gamble Great Hall. Before me, popular culture and science/technology had actively joined forces, allowing for conversation. I stood at the threshold, between one and the other, and explored this thrilling ‘in-between’.

Baxter, a robot designed by Rethink Robotics, is positioned near the entrance of POPnology. Visitors are first greeted, and then introduced to the exhibition space. During Baxter’s brief presentation, its arms move and facial features change. The sign just below the robot reads, “Demos every 5 minutes. Even robots need rest!” Reflecting further, it is clear that Baxter illustrates an enduring need for humans to convey anthropomorphic features or mannerisms onto robotics.

Baxter welcomes visitors to POPnology. Photo courtesy of Christina Bondi.
Baxter mentions four central ‘spheres’ in which to reflect upon the term popnology: ‘How We Connect,’ ‘How We Play,’ ‘How We Live & Work,’ and ‘How We Move.’ Throughout the exhibition space, visitors are able to learn about how science fiction and science coexist and converse with each other: in wrist and handheld devices, robotics, virtual reality, video games, 3D printing, space exploration (i.e. Mars and aliens), autonomous vehicles, AI, and so on. For example, I found the visual timeline of real versus fictitious robots to be quite effective. In the image below, you will see that these robots—whether they be conceptually or materially constructed—were, are, or will be a part of our popular culture.

Robots: a timeline. Photo courtesy of Christina Bondi.
The exhibition features a time capsule structure with several significant individuals, in relevant fields: the visions and realities of select authors, scientists, inventors, and business people throughout history. These include, but are not limited to, Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Disney, Elon Musk, and Steve Jobs. The capsule even includes four small displays (one for each ‘sphere’ of POPnology), which make up a popular culture collection (i.e. books, photographs, and other objects) of a time past.

The POPnology time capsule. Photo courtesy of Christina Bondi.
Also, it was truly inspiring to see the Back to the Future DeLorean time machine and hoverboard; I always appreciate learning about how others envision and contemplate the future. But more to the point, I am a devoted Back to the Future fan.

 The Back to the Future DeLorean time machine. Photo courtesy of Christina Bondi.
Both children and adults are encouraged to engage with POPnology’s exhibition space. The many interactive elements balanced and complemented the themes’ written text. Visitors manoeuvre robotic arms in order to remotely lift dinosaur eggs and create block structures. A rover drives around a small area of Mars, based on remote-control implementation and human engagement (i.e. click the buttons to assign movement). During my own visit, I thoroughly enjoyed a game of tic-tac-toe with ToeBot. Though quite clever and determined, I did find a way to double-trap the robot.

An engrossing game of tic-tac-toe with ToeBot. Photo courtesy of Christina Bondi
To further obscure the real and the virtual, I also had the chance to ‘transport’ myself into two virtual settings (of ten) via an Oculus Rift headset. The experience was brief yet intense. In one setting, for example, I had been placed on the top of a building, overlooking a dystopic/futuristic cityscape. I spent the time struggling to convince myself that it was simply a virtual construction. Did I dare move forward and risk stepping off the platform?

Desperately seeking a return to some kind of material form, I then thought of 3D printing. The 3D printing booth at POPnology features both Formlabs and MakerBot printers—the latter in ‘additive action’ for passersby to witness! Even the ground-breaking, inaugural 3D printed car (Local Motors) is on display, to praise and applaud. 3D printing is quite a multi-purpose process, as it can produce prosthetics (i.e. Exiii HACKberry arm), medical models, and decorative items, just to name a few.

3D printing booth (left), Local Motors 3D printed car (centre), and Exiii HACKberry prosthetic arm (left).
Photos courtesy of Christina Bondi.
POPnology offers engagement with both traditional (i.e. arts-and-crafts) and digital forms of making. For instance, a workshop is available for children to construct a Mars lander, consisting of a parachute and other craft supplies as needed. This allows for a more traditional crafting experience. Nearby, STEAMLabs (a Toronto-based makerspace) calls for interaction via coding/programming. The result involves moving a robotic arm, so as to lift Minecraft-themed objects.
Coding with STEAMLabs. Photo courtesy of Christina Bondi.
As a small treat, I will end by sharing one last experience. Whilst exploring the exhibition, I came across the POPnology photo booth. Because of my Back to the Future attire, I thought it was especially fitting to document the visit. Below, you will find me, presumably, in transit through time; when selecting photographs for this article, I had noticed that the Back to the Future DeLorean time machine replica features the same backdrop (see image 4 to compare).
 “Where am I?” Photo courtesy of the POPnology photo booth, Ontario Science Centre.
Examine (through both written/visual content and experiential activities) the deep-rooted attraction between popular culture and science/technology at the Ontario Science Centre’s POPnology. This exhibition closes on August 6, 2018. No need to jump into your DeLorean time machine quite yet. There’s still some time!

Wednesday, 25 July 2018




Some not so itsy bitsy spiders have managed to find a new home at the Royal Ontario Museum this summer, in the Spiders: Fear & Fascination exhibition. We love to hate these creepy crawlies, but this exhibition encourages visitors to face their fears and immerse themselves in the fascinating world of these web-slingers.

Spider Specimens. Photo courtesy of Maddy Howard.
Spiders: Fear & Fascination is making its North American debut at the ROM this summer. The ROM also added a little more information about the spiders closer to our doorstep, by including an examination of spiders in North America. Spiders also examines our fascination with these arachnids from a cultural and artistic point of view. The exhibition takes our fears and breaks them down by engaging with visitors in a unique and informative way.

Spiders allows visitors to come face-to-face with these eight-legged creatures. The exhibition features more than 200 live and preserved specimens to encourage people to get up close and personal with some of their greatest fears.

Live Black Widow Spider. Photo courtesy of Maddy Howard.
Both adults and children can enjoy this seemingly terrifying ordeal. The exhibition combines real and virtual experiences, which opens up the world of spiders in a way that has never before been experienced. The melding of technology and information was incredible and offered something for adults and children alike. It also allowed visitors to better connect with the information given and made the experience enjoyable for those who might struggle with the subject matter.

Some notable interactive games included, hunting down spiders in a virtual garden, a peacock spider dance-off, and seeing through the eyes of a jumping spider. A live specimen demonstration occurs daily in the Spider Lab, which is another unique feature to this informative exhibition. In the Spider Lab, guests can watch the Spider Wranglers talk about the different species and might get to see them milk some venom!

Kids try to catch their "prey" with spider-like pincers. Photo courtesy of Maddy Howard.
There are different sections around the exhibition, including "What are Spiders?" "Diet, Jaws & Venom," and "Spiders & Us" to name a few. Each section focuses on a different aspect of the arachnid world. Each section is also given an interactive game for parents and children to partake in.

However, while the virtual and augmented reality aspects are a great inclusion, there is still tons of information available to the visitors. There is a lot of text, which might seem overwhelming, but the exhibition spreads it out and intersperses the information with games and live species, so visitors can engage with information hands-on.

Facts are interspersed around the exhibition, which is a fun way to entertain and educate visitors as they travel through the space. For example, did you know that spider silk is used in heart surgery? Or that spiders are over 300 million years old?

Spiders doesn't just focus on the spiders. It also explores how our culture interacts with these critters and how beautiful these creatures can be.

Spider silk cape made from silk from the golden silk orbweaver. It took three years to make and took silk from over a million golden silk orbweavers. Photo courtesy of Maddy Howard.
The exhibition ends with "Spiders & Us" where visitors can look at spiders in our everyday lives and how we incorporate these creatures into our stories. Webs and spiders are common literary and symbolic features, and are present in many cultures from around the world. This section offers visitors a chance to think about the way they engage with spiders in their daily lives.

Mirror of Dearth. Photo courtesy of Maddy Howard.
Of course no exhibition about spiders is complete without a visit from your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. Spider-Man closes out the exhibition with an oversized comic book for people to flip through, and a display about other Spider-themed superheroes (i.e. Black Widow). This was an appreciated addition to the exhibition and reinforced that maybe spiders are not as bad as we make them out to be.

Your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. Photo courtesy of Maddy Howard.
Spiders: Fear & Fascination forces visitors to confront their fears and to learn about the eight-legged creatures in a fun, interesting way. Through interactive and augmented reality, live specimens and boatloads of information, visitors are able to drop their pre-concieved notions and engage with this new and exciting world of spiders.

The exhibition opened June 16, 2018 and runs until January 6, 2019, so swing on over to the Royal Ontario Museum to hang out with some spindly spiders.


Monday, 23 July 2018




As summer is flying by, I present to you the FINAL installment of Internship Check-In. It was an absolute pleasure hearing from my classmates about their internship experiences. Hopefully Internship Check-In shed light on all the wonderful work MMSt students are completing in institutions across Canada and internationally. But not to worry, it’s not over yet! Musings has FOUR more interviews to share.*

This post features:

Shauna Edgar: Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, ON

Anna England: Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, ON

Evelyn Feldman: Markham Museum, Markham,ON

Amy Intrator: Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre, UJA Federation, North York, ON

Tell us a bit about yourself and your museum-related interests.

Shauna: For the past five years I have been a volunteer, a student, an employee or a mixture of roles at the Vertebrate Palaeobiology lab at the ROM. During my undergraduate degree I studied evolutionary biology and completed a senior year thesis at the ROM on a new species of softshell turtle from the Late Cretaceous. During this time, I’ve also been lucky enough to participate in two field seasons with the Southern Alberta Dinosaur Project. I’m fascinated by all things evolutionary and prehistoric and was thrilled to be hired as the Collections Assistant in the Vert Palaeo lab for the summer. I hope to devote my career to the preservation and management of natural history collections which are invaluable resources for education and research.

Anna: After completing my Bachelor of Arts in History and French at the University of King’s College in Halifax, I went on to complete a Master of Arts in History at Lakehead University. I always knew I wanted to work with history and, as time went on, I became increasingly drawn to the concept of working with the material culture associated with the time periods I am most interested in. Throughout my first master’s degree, I began really involving myself with museums and historical associations. As I entered the Master of Museum Studies program at the University of Toronto, it became clear to me that I would like to work primarily with tangible history, likely in the capacity of collections management or exhibition design.

Evelyn: I am entering my third year in the iSchool’s Concurrent Registration Option, pursuing both a Master of Information and a Master of Museum Studies. On the Information side, I am concentrating in Libraries, rather than Archives (the more common choice in the program). At first, even I didn’t quite understand the reason for this dual interest, but I’ve come to realize that it’s because I love the front-end side of both libraries and museums. I love the way both types of institutions engage patrons/visitors in learning, help them discover new things, offer exciting or useful programs, and overall encourage people to think about and learn about the world around them.

Amy: Hello, my name is Amy! I recently finished my first year of a collaborative degree in Museum Studies and Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. Before entering the Museum Studies program, I earned my Honours Bachelor of Arts, also at the University of Toronto, with a major in History and a double minor in English and Jewish Studies. Over the course of my Undergraduate degree, I realized my passion for history, culture, art, and working with the public, and I realized that the Museum Studies program offered a rare opportunity to blend my love for academia with my interest in public-facing institutions. The collaborative program has allowed me to study the intersection of cultural organizations and institutions with a focus on Jewish heritage. 

Shauna sitting with the holotype specimen of Champsosaurus albertensis. Photo courtesy of Shauna Edgar. 
What is a typical day at your institution? What are your responsibilities?

Shauna: A typical day for me primarily involves rehousing our holotype collection of vertebrate fossils. This requires various judgement calls regarding each specimen’s individual storage based on its conservation needs. For most of the larger fossils I create customized foam cradles for structural support. Additionally, my job involves research into each specimen and its species to update our catalogue records. I can also be found puzzling over small fragments of bone to sort and identify, and cleaning/repairing fossils.

Anna: As a research assistant for Dr. Tim Cook, a day for me at the War Museum is never the same as the last. Dr. Cook has been phenomenal at ensuring I get a chance to experience as much as I can during my time here, so he will often have me sit in on exhibition development meetings, attend collections workshops, catalogue, or conduct primary/secondary research. Some of the tasks I have had include cataloguing postcards from a soldier during the First World War, categorizing and researching art from the Second World War, compiling contextual research about war artist Alfred Munnings, and helping plan artifact displays and visitor interactives for an upcoming Hundred Days exhibition. I thoroughly enjoy the level of variety in the work I do.

Evelyn: Some days, I am helping with our variety of programs: shadowing programs, helping to run programs, helping to prepare programs, or working at the front desk as our tour guide. When there aren’t programs going on, I’m working on my big project for the internship, which is updating the museum’s walk-in tour. The museum has 25 acres, with numerous heritage buildings from around Markham. I am researching all of these buildings (who lived there? Where are the buildings from? What are their architectural features?) and related topics (blacksmithing! beekeeping! baptists! bricklaying techniques! Just to name some “B”’s), using the files and documents in the curatorial department, to develop a new-and-improved package of information for tour guides.

Amy: You’ve been reading this column for a couple months now, so you can probably guess, there is no typical day at my institution! My position is the Museum and Programs Intern, which captures the two different roles that I alternate between here at the Neuberger Centre. Some days are more dedicated to museum-related tasks, like helping review the collection and determine best practice for cataloguing and storing various artifacts. Other days, I spend more time on the program-related tasks, mainly helping to plan the upcoming Holocaust Education Week, which will take place in the first week of November. My program-related tasks can include anything from corresponding with community partners, to looking for venues, to planning for an exhibition to be included in the program!

Evelyn working hard on Markham Museum's programming. Photo courtesy of Evelyn Feldman. 
What is something you have learned so far at your internship?

Shauna: I’ve learned a lot about collection management within a large institution like the ROM and have been able to see how our collection is stored and managed from the gallery to behind the scenes. There are so many important decisions to be made regarding how to organize and store a collection, and even more that must be made when displaying specimens in the gallery. Although much of my work is technical and collections-focused, I’ve seen how returning a specimen to its display case can be an opportunity to informally engage with visitors, answer questions, and have fun talking about feathered dinosaurs.

Anna: During my time at the War Museum, I have had the chance to meet with and learn from many amazing museum staff members in a wide range of different fields. From researchers, to curators, to collections management and exhibition designers, I have been able to sit in and explore what each of these jobs entail. This experience has allowed me to further understand the inner workings of a national museum while also giving me an opportunity to delve into potential future career paths. My internship has also taught me how exhibitions are developed, from the beginning brainstorming phase through to the compilation of research and artifacts and on to the finalized review and advertising.

Evelyn: There are the obvious things like classroom management techniques, program development, and research skills. But one of my favourite things to learn has been just how easily museum and library skills can intersect. In working on the tour, I’m really drawing a lot from the Master of Information side of my degrees, and my work in libraries. I’m researching such a variety of topics, and trying to organize the information about them in a way that will be easiest for tour guides to assimilate and reference back to.

Amy: I have learned how collaborative public programming can be! Since Holocaust Education Week is such a large program, every member of the Neuberger team is involved in the planning process. I expected that I would work closely with my supervisor, since she manages the public programs, but all of the Neuberger staff contribute to the process. My role has meant working with staff members in various departments from education to management. I know this is a reality for most institutions with a small number of staff, but I didn't realize how exciting it would be to work with a dynamic team. The programming is also built around community collaborations, so I have learned about the process of co-organizing events with various community members and institutions.

Amy Intrator in front of the Frank and Anita Ekstein Holocaust Resource Collection at the Neuberger Centre.
Photo courtesy of Amy Intrator. 
 What are you excited about accomplishing throughout your internship?

Shauna: I am very excited to be upgrading the storage of the holotype collection. It is a largescale project that has a lasting impact for research and the curation of our collection. Once complete, we will have an updated catalogue, specimens will be stored safely and securely in customized foam cradles, and fossils that were broken due to less than ideal storage or historical preparation practices will be repaired.

Anna: Looking at the work I have already done makes me feel exceptionally proud and I am thrilled to have been given this opportunity by Dr. Cook. Proceeding forward, I am very excited to continue my work on categorizing and helping to select the art work that will be featured in the future 2020 exhibition to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. I am honoured to have been given this role and am excited to see the final product along with the art work I have suggested be included. I am also looking forward to co-authoring an article with Dr. Cook on the work we have done regarding Alfred Munnings, who was a war artist during the First World War.

Evelyn: Obviously, I’m excited to see the tour actually be put into action! I think that’s the winner, hands down.

Amy: I am excited to help make Holocaust Education Week 2018 a reality! The program won't launch until November, but already I have seen the program develop so much over the two months I've been at the Neuberger. It will be hard to leave the Neuberger at the end of August, right when planning goes into overdrive, but I already feel a great sense of pride that I have been able to contribute to the early program planning phase. From exhibits, to lectures, to panels, I have been able to lend a hand with a full roster of programming!

Anna at the Canadian War Museum. Photo courtesy of Anna England. 
If you could create any museum (no matter how ridiculous) what kind of museum would it be? 

Shauna: I would love to see a museum all about Earth’s geologic history and geomorphology. At an early age, one of the key concepts that initially drew me to science was learning about plate tectonics and how mountains formed. It blew my mind. I began looking at the landscape where I lived completely differently. The ground beneath my feet was far from static, and had its own dramatic history. In addition to capturing the imagination, I think these foundational topics in geology help significantly in our understanding and acceptance of other scientific concepts such as evolution and climate change while also providing a foothold to ask further questions about the natural world.

Anna: It is difficult for me to think of a specific idea for a museum that I would like to create, but I often think about events in history that go unrecognised or underexplored. There are many historically significant events that have occurred but may not have been examined to their full potential in the world of museums. Museums that are dedicated to more eclectic subject matters are also of interest to me, such as the travelling Museum of Failure, so perhaps I would like to create a museum along a similar theme.

Evelyn: One of my favourite things is when museums teach about museums. A lot of museums do this in little ways; the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History has a small display about how they transported artifacts off of Sable Island, for example. Museums can teach us about the different ways they preserve objects, or how they think about visitors, or how interpretation in museums can never be neutral, simply through what we choose to leave in and take out. I’d love to see a museum of museums: A museum that teaches us about the world around us—science, sociology, current events—through the lens of museums’ operations themselves.

Amy: I am fascinated by the concept of a museum focused on Jewish heritage. A few years ago, a plan for the Jewish Museum of Canada was proposed, but the plan has been put on hold indefinitely. I would love to be a part of the process of making that museum a reality, as I think museums that focus on Jewish heritage have so much potential as spaces for education and cross-cultural dialogue.

Want more of Internship Check-In? Check out previous interviews here!

*These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Friday, 20 July 2018




We live in a technological age. Every year there are more advances in technology. From cellphones to self-driving cars, the digital world is becoming reality. With these changes comes the advancement of technology not only for personal use, but also for commercial use.

As the digital world expands more and more museums are utilizing technology. Generally, this can help bring the museological world into the 21st century. However, there are some cases where these technologies might be more of a limitation than an innovation. A case study at The Rooms, in St. John’s, Newfoundland, illustrates some of the stumbling blocks museums professionals must overcome for new technology to be successful.

An image of The Rooms. Photo courtesy of Maureen Peters.

Two exhibitions, From This Place: Our Lives on the Land and Sea, and Here We Made a Home, were developed with the express intention of implementing new digital technology. This technology included digital labels, digital hubs, and an interactive digital map and timeline of Newfoundland and Labrador. These exhibitions were designed to embrace technology with the goal of enhancing visitor experience, providing more information, lowering costs, and expediting exhibition changeover.

But, did the addition of this technology succeed?


The digital labels were designed as touchscreens that allowed visitors to access pictures and information about each object within the display case. In theory, they would increase access to more in-depth information about the objects and would decrease the need for paper labels. However, that was not the case. 

An example of a digital label. Photo courtesy of Maureen Peters.

First, the in-depth data needed to be rewritten, as it was in various forms of shorthand, and much of it was outdated. Then it was discovered that the labels and the museum’s database were not compatible. The information had to be uploaded by hand. Then the database crashed, wiping the labels. Thus, the work had to be uploaded, by hand, again. Another issue is that the touchscreens need to be re-calibrated frequently. Often a visitor will go to use the touchscreen, and nothing will happen. To combat this issue, paper labels were created, despite the original intent to eliminate them.

An image of the paper labels attached to a digital label. Photo courtesy of Maureen Peters.

Overall, the general consensus seems to be that the cost outweighs the benefit of the digital labels, as they were more time consuming than intended, and paper labels were needed anyway. 

The digital hubs were meant to provide more “cultural heritage” by encouraging visitors to listen to traditional stories and folk music. The issue with the hubs is that they are quite time consuming to complete, and the editing requires a specific software with which employees are not familiar. Because of this, new equipment had to be purchased, and employees trained. To date, only two have been completed. This leaves sections of the exhibitions empty. 

One of the working digital hubs. Photo courtesy of Maureen Peters.

Unlike the digital labels and the digital hubs, the timeline and map were successful. It did not take extra time to set up, there were no issues in developing or installing it, visitors appear to enjoy it, and it is aesthetically pleasing. The single issue with the timeline is the inability of museum staff to change the content. The initial plan was to add events as they continued to happen, but the only way to reprogram the timelines is through a firm in Toronto. Thus, new events have not been added. 

A zoomed-in image of part of the interactive timeline. Photo courtesy of Maureen Peters.

A section of the interactive timeline. Photo courtesy of Maureen Peters.

Other problems have also been mentioned, including the cost to run the machines day and night, as they cannot be turned off, the cleanliness of the touchscreens, and the fact that this “new” technology is often obsolete after a couple of years.

So, is it really worth it?

I think so. But, only if it works.

Here’s some questions to keep in mind when considering the effectiveness of implementing new technology:

1) Are the databases compatible with the software?

2) Are the employees trained in using this software? If not, am I willing to train them, or hire someone who is?

3) Does the benefit outweigh the cost?

4) If something goes wrong, am I capable of fixing it? Or will I need to call in a specialist? Is there someone at the museum well-versed in this type of technology (i.e. does the museum have an IT department)?

5) Will the visitors utilize it? Has it had success at other institutions? 

Visitors testing the new technology. Photo courtesy of Maureen Peters.

Overall, it's important to understand what type of technology is best for certain exhibitions and institutions. Being able to successfully discern and utilize the technology is what draws the line between limitation and innovation, and as the digital age continues, this line is going to become more prominent. 

Wednesday, 18 July 2018




When we think of museums around Toronto, the first ones that come to mind are the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) or the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Yet, there are so many more. Here are just a few of my favorite cultural museums or art galleries in Toronto I bet you haven’t checked out yet. These institutions are all located in Toronto core and easily accessible by public transportation, so there is no reason for not visiting them in the upcoming months.

1. Gardiner Museum

111 Queen's Park, Toronto, ON M5S 2C7

The Gardiner Museum, the leading Canadian ceramics museum, is known worldwide as a great specialty museum. Although small looking compared to its neighbor, the ROM, the Gardiner holds a permanent collection of almost 3000 pieces. This collection includes ceramic and porcelain treasures from all around the world, and from Ancient to contemporary objects. Every year, the museum mounts three temporary exhibitions. Clay workshops are available, if you have a creative mindset or want to learn techniques. This past winter, it had a nationally acclaimed exhibition Yoko Ono: The Riverbed and, in 2019, it will hold the highly anticipated Ai Weiwei: Unbroken exhibition. Finally, the Gardiner Museum is at a 10-minute walking distance from campus. Admission is free using your OMA membership card.

2. Textile Museum of Canada

55 Centre Avenue, Toronto, ON M5G 2H5

In the heart of downtown Toronto, the Textile Museum is the only museum in Canada that dedicates its collection, research and exhibitions to the media of textiles. The TMC’s 13000 artifacts from around the world cover nearly two millennia. It is a fascinating way to explore, discover and understand various cultures. A past exhibition I personally enjoyed was Artistry in Silk: The Kimono of Itchiku Kubota, which made one discover Japanese culture and landscapes through Kubuta’s Kimono designs. Finally, entrance is also free with your OMA card.

3. Ryerson Image Centre

33 Gould Street, Toronto ON M5B 1W1

The Ryerson Image Centre is in Ryerson University’s School of Image Art’s building. It focuses its collection, exhibitions and research on photography and related media. I recommend going to see the Scotiabank Photography Award: Shelley Niro, 2017 winner, before it closes on August 5, 2018. In addition to the main galleries, the RIC has a Student Gallery that showcases the artworks and curatorial practices of Ryerson University’s students or recent alumni. The RIC is walking distance from the Eaton Centre and its admission is free to all.

4. The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery

231 Queens Quay West, Toronto, ON M5J 2G8

The Power Plant is Canada’s leading non-collecting public gallery dedicated to contemporary visual art. It is located at the Harbourfront Centre in a mid-1920s powerhouse. The Power Plant is pro-active in showcasing diverse living artists and engaging with a variety of audiences, thus fostering a local-global dialogue related to contemporary art practice. The gallery holds three shows per year (fall, winter and summer). Many MMSt students attended its Summer Opening Party, last month, to see the exhibitions of Ellen Gallagher, Abbas Akhavan and Grada Kilomba. The Power Plant also offers a large programming of lectures, film screenings, and holds a Sunday Scene speaker series. This art gallery is free to all.

5. 401 Richmond

401 Richmond Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 3A8

If you are in a different mindset, take time to discover an arts-and-culture hub: 401 Richmond Street West. Located in the heart of the Fashion District, this restored heritage industrial building is home to a mix of over 140 creative minds. It has twelve art galleries and thirty artists' studios, which hold many events throughout the year such as performances and exhibitions. Galleries I recommend checking out include Abbozzo Gallery, Open Studio and Gallery 44. As one can see, visiting 401 Richmond is a full day of great and diverse discoveries, and is free!

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BONUS: Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto

158 Sterling Rd, Toronto, ON M6R 2B2

You have probably not visited the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto Canada (MOCA) recently as it has moved to a new location in the Junction in the landmark heritage Tower Automotive Building. Save the date: opening day is September 22nd, 2018. The MOCA builds upon the experience of the former Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) having held 200+ exhibitions with works of over 1,100 Canadian and international artists. The moving from its previous location on Queen West to a larger space accommodates the museum’s ever-growing aspirations and significance. In its new 55,000 square foot home, the MOCA integrates artist residency studios and workshop space for educational programs. I had the chance to visit the new building, under construction, during the Doors Open Toronto and I am looking forward to its opening. Admission will be free to the permanent collection and student memberships are $20.

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I hope you will take time to visit these museums and art galleries and make the most out of their great events and programming! As MMSt students, it is important to visit a variety of cultural institutions to broaden your knowledge of museum practices, as well as complement with and make the most of your graduate experience. Follow up on events organized by MUSSA to learn about other opportunities to visit these museums and more!

Monday, 16 July 2018




This month, Toronto received news that an immersive art experience is coming to Kensington Market. The Fairland Funhouse, an “interactive two-storey adventure world," will be hosted at the former site of Zimmerman's Fairland grocery store in Kensington Market. The fun-house experience will run from August to Halloween. What exactly is the experience? The details are still emerging, but it is already clear that the Funhouse will offer a unique mixture of visual arts and music in an environment that encourages exploration and play.
Exterior image of the former Zimmerman's Fairland store in Kensington Market. Source.

Collaboration in the Spotlight

While all exhibits depend on collaboration, at the Funhouse, collaboration takes center stage. After entering the building’s “hotel lobby” visitors will experience the art maze in the basement. The maze is made up of six rooms, and each room features a collaboration between visual artists and musicians. The visual artists were tasked with creating an immersive art experience based on the aesthetic of their musical counterpart. Some of the pairings include the band The Beaches with the artistic duo Broadbent Sisters (you may recognize this sister duo from their previous exhibit A Telepathic Book curated by MMSt grad Aurora Cacioppo); and the Canadian rapper Jazz Cartier with mixed-media artist Casey Watson. Each room is a product of artistic collaboration, and each space is a unique visualization of an auditory experience.

The Fairland Funhouse is the product of a collaboration between Mondo Forma, a creative collective, and Universal Music Canada. The Funhouse creators are clear that this space is meant to create an environment that invites play and provokes imagination. Beyond the trippy art maze, the space will also host musical programs, another indication that the Funhouse aims to provide a multi-sensory, engaging environment.

Interactive and Site-Specific

The Funhouse intends to engage the visitors in both the real space and imagined dimensions. While an abandoned grocery store may seem like an odd space for this interactive art experience, the creators are playing up the history of the store and the surrounding Market. Back in the day, the store was famous for hosting rooftop concerts during Pedestrian Sundays, and this legacy of art and community melds perfectly with the Funhouse’s mission. The Funhouse also situates itself in the larger community by embracing the multiculturalism and creativity abundant in Kensington Market. The creators are trying to highlight the potential of empty spaces in the city, so the Funhouse may be inviting visitors to escape reality, but the experience is also rooted in our diverse and creative city.

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The Funhouse embraces its Toronto roots, but it also imagines a new, otherworldly dimension. The Funhouse website invites visitors to an “inter-dimensional hotel” where wormholes and an alternate universe await. The new experience in an old building depends on the visitor to activate this reimagined space. The Funhouse advertises the experience as “art that you can be IN.” The experience will also incorporate augmented reality through an app that visitors can use to experience digital art layered on top of the physical art.

Part of a Larger Movement

The Fairland Funhouse promises a unique experience, but the art maze is part of a growing trend of immersive art experiences. Over the last few years, exhibits and pop-ups have sprung up offering engaging experiences that defy exhibition conventions. From the Rain Room that invited visitors to walk through a reality-defying field of falling water, to Meow Wolf, these spectacular, large-scale, immersive exhibits are on the rise.

This new wave of immersive art is not without its critics. Many have suggested that these exhibits cater to millennial audiences by building an exhibit that promises a great photo-op above all else. Although the Funhouse has yet to open, I appreciate that the creators are embracing their millennial audience and blurring the line between art and entertainment. While other exhibits are criticized for pandering to selfie culture, the Funhouse builds digital engagement into the experience through the VR component. While other exhibits are accused of replicating an Instagram aesthetic, the Funhouse embraces Instagram as a source of aesthetic inspiration and a primary means of marketing.

We will have to wait until August to see what the Fairland Funhouse holds, but I am excited to witness a once-empty store as a site of multi-disciplinary artistic collaboration.