A "ReCollection" of the Collections

1970s

A "ReCollection" of the Collections

Era: 

  • 1968 - 1982
  • Crimson Rotunda magazine cover

In response to the question in ROM Magazine’s Winter 2013/2014 issue (page 14) regarding whether anyone took Peter C. Swann’s advice to preserve their copies of the bulletin: Yes, I did. I have a bound set of Rotunda, with issues from 1968 to 1980. As the artist who designed the magazine, I not only collected them but I played a role in producing the issues during those years.

The idea for Rotunda was conceived in May of 1967. A colleague of mine told me the Royal Ontario Museum had a new director who was interested in starting up a bulletin, or magazine, and he needed an artist to design it. He was determined to blow the dust off of the relics, and open up a revitalized, engaging educational environment’s doors to the public. That director was Peter Swann, who had arrived in Toronto from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England.

I met Peter and one of his editors for the first time in the museum’s original entrance, the magnificent rotunda with the gold, mosaic ceiling. We walked up to his office off the upper gallery of the rotunda, and there, he and his editor explained what they wanted for the bulletin. They were pleased with my suggestions for how the magazine should look, I got the job, and Rotunda was born in the winter of 1968.

Over the years, I had the privilege of working with many talented, bright people at the ROM. Editorial staff during this time included the likes of Peter Swann, Bruce Easson, Bev Slopen, Peggie Wente, John Campsi, Ollie Koyama, Elizabeth Lopianowska, and Alex MacDonald, to name a few. My work on Rotunda, which was a quarterly, involved at least two meetings with ROM editorial staff per issue. I would pick up the photos and text for the issue from the editorial staff at the ROM, design the layout of the magazine, then take the issue’s mock-up back down to the ROM’s editorial staff so they and the curators could review it. I worked closely with printing companies to produce the finished issue, checking proofs and making adjustments to the colour copy, and each issue was ready for distribution three times a year.

During this time, my experiences with the ROM staff were always a pleasure. They were nice people with whom to work, and what was more, they were welcoming to my daughter, which began her long-term relationship with the ROM. I was busily working on Rotunda’s second issue when my daughter was born. Despite the editor’s initial concern about my being able to continue work on Rotunda as a new mother, I assured him that I would be able to do so. Between checking proofs from the hospital bed in the maternity ward, to bringing along my little daughter to meetings at the ROM with the editorial staff, I continued as the artistic designer of Rotunda for 12 years. Some of my enduring memories include bringing my 6-month-old daughter in for a visit with Bev and the editors, and later, watching my little girl play with the editors on their typewriters while I was in production meetings.

As a result of my involvement with the ROM’s Rotunda, my family and I developed a true fondness for not only the people working at the ROM, but also for the ROM itself. Production meetings were often opportunities for side trips to the galleries, especially when my daughter was accompanying me. Those years before the ROM had children’s camps, we would make the rounds during winter and March breaks. Sometimes, we would visit the costumes, and look at the heavy suits of armour and fine Renaissance dresses. On other occasions, we would look at the rocks and minerals, or visit the ancient Egyptian mummy in his sarcophagus. The hands-on Discovery Gallery was intriguing, but our favourite exhibits by far were the bat cave and the dinosaur gallery. And of course, no visit would be complete without a trip to the cafeteria—also known as the Dinosaur Den—for a hotdog and French fries, and a peek into the gift shop.

Even though I resigned from my position as Rotunda’s artistic designer in 1980, the impact the ROM has had on my family has endured over the years. My daughter grew up to be an educator, with an interest in science and culture. She worked briefly as an intern in the ROM’s education department some years ago, and she and her family are current ROM members. She has a daughter of her own now who attends the ROM’s March Break camp and Summer Club every year. Like her mother’s, my granddaughter’s enthusiasm for learning was ignited in the Egyptian and dinosaur galleries, and current favourites for regular visits are the bat cave, and the Hands-On Biodiversity Gallery. As for me, my husband and I are ROM members who still enjoy taking a leisurely wander through the galleries, and reading the latest issue of the ROM magazine.

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