30 September 2014




September has been an exciting time for Toronto museum lovers as it is not very often that two massive cultural institutions open in the same month. The Aga Khan Museum opened its doors to the public this September as did the brand new, highly anticipated Fort York Visitor Centre. Last Sunday after walking around the Word on the Street Festival, I (and my newly purchased books) decided to hop on a streetcar and head down to Fort York. The rain looked like it was going to stop and I hadn’t been to the Fort since a Grade Six class trip. 

A beautiful day to visit Fort York 

While I entered off of Bathurst Street and had trouble finding the Visitor Centre (a problem I was assured would be remedied with the inclusion of signs) I had no problem wandering about the grounds. Turns out the Centre is located directly under the Gardiner Expressway making it easy to access for those coming along Lakeshore Blvd but difficult to find otherwise.  

The Visitor Centre underneath the Gardiner Expressway 

The barracks-like Visitor Centre is quite stunning from the outside, and is designed to resemble the original embankment. Unfortunately the Centre is not quite finished yet and only had a few galleries open for public viewing; The Great War – In Your Cellar, Closet or Storage Locker; Charles Patcher’s “1812: The Art of War” Series; Outfitted For War; an Art and the Great War: A Toronto Perspective

Art and the Great War: A Toronto Perspective 

While the exhibits all contain interesting artifacts, especially The Great War – In Your Cellar Closet or Storage Locker, which broadened its scope to include decorations and souvenirs form other countries to remind us that “the war to end all wars” was truly global, the collections themselves are rather small. The Art in the Great War exhibit contains a few cases and framed photographs and the Outfitted For War collection is placed in a room called “The Vault” which is roughly the size of a large walk in closet. The objects in this collection include iconic uniforms and weapons worn and used by Torontonians during the Great War, but the size of the gallery space makes it difficult to appreciate the display.

The same weekend, the Visitor Centre played host to Toronto’s Great War Attic a series of Pop-Up Museum-Style events taking place around Toronto this fall. Residents of Toronto are encouraged to bring their stories, heirlooms, and photographs from the First World War to be saved and documented on the forthcoming website. These events are a great way to engage the public with museums and are going on until November 28. You can check times and locations here

"Fine Cakes" being baked in the Fort York kitchens

Having spent enough time looking at the galleries in the Visitor Centre I decided to call it a day. No trip to Fort York would be complete, however, without a visit to the kitchen where I sampled a “fine cake” before heading home.

While Fort York's Visitor Centre is incomplete and a little sparse at the moment I feel that it holds real potential, and not purely as a site to celebrate Toronto’s military accomplishments. While most of the upcoming exhibits, including a “Battle of York immersion experience,” pay tribute to the city's military heritage, the Fort York Visitor Centre may be able to branch out into celebrating other aspects of Toronto's rich history. There is currently no museum space that focuses solely on the history of Toronto, which is a role that Fort York may be able to at least partially fill. With the centennial of the First World War however, it is pretty safe to say that most (if not all) upcoming exhibits will be dedicated to celebrating Canada’s military role. 

1 comment:

  1. Katie, thank you for the review and for sharing your trip with us! The Fort is indeed a fascinating place and having the opportunity to see a new exhibitionary space being develop is really exciting for all of us. It will be great to see how the space evolves & I heard rumors about a restaurant! So more amazing artefacts and more yummy food for our city :)