ROM Governor Alf Wirth has visited hundreds of museums. We caught up with him in the Wirth Gallery of the Middle East—one of many ROM initiatives he has generously supported—to talk about his passion for arts and culture.
“I used to come to the ROM with my dad,” recalls Alf Wirth. “I loved the totem poles; back then they seemed to go on forever and now they’re not quite as tall as I remember them...but they made a real impression on me.”
A self-confessed artifact collector, he has visited most of the world’s major museums and holds memberships to cultural institutions at home and abroad. “We have something unique and wonderful in the ROM,” says Alf. “The new structure is impressive and the Museum’s dual mandate for natural history and world cultures is unique. This sets us apart and represents a major plus for Toronto and the world.”
Alf is a dedicated philanthropist who sees himself as a “global citizen.” He donates to a range of local, national and international organizations including University Health Network, the University of Alberta, and SOS Children’s Villages.
In 2007, Alf generously supported the Wirth Gallery of the Middle East as he wanted people to know more about this critically important region. The Fertile Crescent is where religion agriculture, writing and “our civilization” started. “It’s about giving people a sense of their common roots and connecting them to each other. You can draw a fairly straight line from there to where we are now,” he says.
Looking to the future, Alf sees the ROM as an indispensable resource for opening people’s minds. He’s pleased to see the ROM become a Museum of the 21st century—complete with iPhone apps and multimedia exhibits—but believes the traditional objects and real specimens make the Museum a magical place for children. “I took my grandsons to a museum and all the kids stood around a mounted buffalo that was close to my height. It’s the hands-on activities—like touching a dinosaur tooth or holding crystals—that have a huge impact on the kids.”