Friday, 22 May 2015

THE TORONTONIAN'S MUSEUM

WALK OF FAME

BY: MADELINE SMOLARZ & REBECCA FREROTTE

Editor’s Note: A new museum without walls - the “Myseum of Toronto” - was launched on Monday, May 11 in Toronto. The following article is a reflective, collaborative piece by CRO student and Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) intern Rebecca Frerotte, who attended the press conference launch, and Editor-In-Chief Madeline Smolarz. The discussion will revolve around this week’s “Walk of Fame” person of note: the Torontonian. Yes, it’s a little abstract, but stay with us! As the Myseum website states, “Through the Myseum, we aim to bring about a deeper, more personal understanding and appreciation of all that is Toronto.” It seems as though one of the Myseum’s goals is to connect with Torontonians on an individual, personal level, therefore placing the Torontonian centre stage in the efforts to bring this new museum to life.

The Myseum's logo. Source.

Rebecca
I attended the invite-only, password-required announcement event for the Myseum of Toronto. Travelling there from the ROM, my internship supervisor and I speculated what we would learn at the event, where the museum would go, what funding they already had attached, and employment opportunities. The announcement event certainly answered these questions but also created more.

Madeline
Making the launch event more exclusive, complete with a secret password, certainly upped the hype amongst museum professionals, especially those who were extended an invite. However, if the Myseum is supposed to be for Torontonians by Torontonians (as their co-creation mandate suggests, which Rebecca describes below), it seemed strange to me that they would exclude the general population from the chance to participate in the launch.

Myseum press conference attendees. Source.

Rebecca
The crowded room in St. James Cathedral Centre was a verifiable who’s who of the Toronto museum world. Gail Lord was seated front row, and representatives from the AGO, ROM, MOCCA, and Heritage Toronto all mixed and mingled before the event began. Even the iSchool’s Professor Brower attended, on hand for my questions afterward.

Madeline
Perhaps the Myseum’s intention was to utilize the launch’s prestigious guest list as a group of messengers to their respective institutions and to the wider public as well. Still, I believe that the event may have been more effective by making it more accessible, thus widening its impact and allowing regular Torontonians a clearer, unrestricted glimpse at their long-awaited city museum.

Myseum Executive Director Karen Carter at the launch event. Source.

Rebecca
Diane Blake, founder and lead sponsor of the project, announced the concept, the name, and the tag line “It’s all around us”. Executive Director Karen Carter explained that this museum without walls will be an experience, not a place. Programming begins in June with “Myseum on the Move”; Toronto itself will be the venue. The Myseum wants to co-create with other cultural institutions and Torontonians, and to examine artefacts and their stories (sometimes physically and sometimes by digitizing this collection). Carter emphasized the stories and the history that defines Toronto and Torontonians are not confined to municipal borders, and commute just like many of the people here in the city. As such, the museum defined Toronto as the entire Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Madeline
Living in Toronto this past year, it did not take long for me to realize how far the borders of the city stretch and that literally millions of people call Toronto home. The city can feel horribly inescapable and wonderfully immersive simultaneously, and people hate it or love it. To pinpoint that sensation in a tagline and harness it to shape the way the museum will function is rather brilliant, in my opinion. I also appreciate the Myseum’s apparent willingness to integrate itself into Toronto’s cultural heritage scene and diverse community, and I’m eager to see how it comes to fruition.

How Google Maps defines the GTA i.e. a very large area! Source.

Rebecca
The event overall was lively: there was a strong media presence; the Myseum launched its online presence (see its Twitter and Facebook pages); Carter used call-and-response to acclimatize the crowd to the unique name; and t-shirts were distributed for promotion beyond the event. Strong branding boosts recognition and will hopefully encourage participation. In my opinion, the key to the success of this wall-less initiative will be in co-creation, a goal the founders emphasized. If the Myseum works with existing institutions rather than competing against similar initiatives, this should help create a sustained presence throughout the year, especially November to March when cozy walls will seem more attractive.

Madeline
I agree with Rebecca wholeheartedly that co-creating will be a major part – if not the driving force – in ensuring the future of the Myseum. It is critical that this co-creation be an accessible process for all Torontonians so that everyone is equally welcomed to take part. Otherwise, the product will not be adequately representative of the city. It will be a delicate balance to achieve, and the first events will be quite telling as to how this venture will pan out. In the end, it is the individual Torontonian who will make or break the Myseum. The museum can only go so far as to reach people; bridging the gap is up to you.

A trailer for the Myseum by Bell Local Toronto. Source.

Will you be attending the pop-up events and co-creating with the Myseum? Why or why not? Let us know via social media or by commenting below!

Many thanks to Rebecca for reaching out about this story and providing a thorough run-down of the press conference launch event.

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