My Three Things
- 1933 - 1968
When I was a kid, I was lucky to live close enough to the ROM to visit it on my own. And I did, frequently. I explored it minutely over the years but there were three "wow" exhibits I returned to over and over. One of them would likely be on every kid's list but the other two, probably not.
- The Mummy. This is the one that will be on most visitors' lists. She (I think the mummy was a she) wasn't like the ones we saw in the movies. She wasn't wrapped in cloths and placed in a sarcophagus. She was a tiny thing, curled into the foetal position. As I recall, she had been found in a cave and had been naturally mummified by the dry desert air. She was the first dead person I had ever seen and I had complex feelings whenever I saw her that I couldn't quite interpret, but pity was certainly part of the mix.
- The Human Tapeworm. Kids love things that are gross and this certainly fit the bill for ten-year-old me. It was easy to miss, just a jar sitting on a shelf with a label saying it was a tapeworm that had been removed from a human being. It was long and articulated and I imagined it squirming around in someone's insides. A cautionary tale on being very, very careful in what we eat.
- Toronto During the Ice Age. Of all the exhibits in the ROM, this was my favourite. All it was was a cardboard mockup of the Bank of Commerce (at 33 stories the tallest building in the Commonwealth) with a squiggly line way above it showing the depth of ice covering Toronto during the height of the last ice age. Absolutely amazing to me. How could so much ice ever melt? I'd walk to the ROM through the greenery of a warm Toronto summer and stand in front of this modest exhibit and be stunned by the contrast a few thousand years can make to the earth. Over the years, the exhibit got tattier and began to fall apart. The glue deteriored to the point that the Bank building came away from its carboard backing and began to curl like a Dali painting. Eventually the inevitable happened. I came one day and it was gone.
Museum exhibits are a lot more sophisticated now than when I was a kid but I don't think that makes them more effective. Sometimes it's the simple, direct, and unadorned exhibits that make the greatest impression on you.