In honour of International Women's Day, the ROM Library and Archives highlights a number of the many women whose work at the ROM made advances in science, art, and museology.
Ella Martin (pictured above)
Ella Martin devoted her life to improving museum education through object based learning and re-shaping visitor experiences by encouraging multi sensory participation. She joined the Royal Ontario Museum’s Division of Public Instruction in 1938 as one of the ROM’s first professional and experienced teachers. Ella Martin developed many educational resources for both children and adults, and taught a variety of extension courses sponsored by the University of Toronto and the ROM. She received fellowships to travel and study abroad including the Adult Education Fellowship (1958), and the Canada Council Fellowship (1961-2). Ella Martin retired from the ROM in 1971. She was a true champion of reform in museum education, and was highly regarded by teachers and students alike.
Dorothy Burnham joined the ROM as a draftsman in 1929. When the Department of Textiles was created in 1939, Dorothy Burnham became its first curator. Her first initiative was a major project concerning the history of hand weaving. She left the museum in 1949 to raise her family but returned in 1959 to work part time as a research assistant alongside her husband Harold Burnham. The result of this research was the 1972 publication “Keep Me Warm One Night: Early Handweaving in Eastern Canada.” After the death of Harold in 1973, she returned as a full time associate curator and eventually become curator of the Textiles Department. Dorothy Burnham retired in 1977 but continued her research. In 1983, she received a grant from the Explorations Program of the Canada Council to research the textile traditions of the Doukhobors which resulted in her 1986 publication “Unlike the Lilies: Doukhobor Textiles Tradition in Canada.” She also studied a group of rare painted caribou-skin coats of the Montagnais-Napapi of the Quebec-Labrador area, which were made and worn between 1700 - 190. In 2000, Dorothy Burnham became a Curator Emeritus at the ROM.
Sylvia Hahn dedicated the majority of her artistic career to the ROM working as a designer, head of the art department, and keeper of the print collection. She joined the museum’s staff full time in 1937. During her time at the ROM Sylvia Hahn completed identification drawings for the museum’s catalogue, 11 murals, models of jewelry sold in the museum gift shop, a reproduction of a mural that was originally on the wall of an Etruscan tomb, a detailed model of the Acropolis, and a scale model of the statue of Athena Parthenos. A number of her works still remain in the museum today including a mural in the Greece and Roman Gallery, the Acropolis model and the Athena statue. However, her most famous works are the medieval spectator murals, featuring past ROM staff members in the Samuel Hall/Currelly Gallery. Silvia Hahn retired in 1976 after 39 years of service.
Margaret H. Mitchell
Margaret H. Mitchell was an enthusiastic and passionate ornithologist. She was the first female research affiliate of natural history in Canada. Margaret Mitchell joined the ROM as secretary to the head of the Department of Paleontology around 1924. During those early years she struck up friendships with ROM ornithologists L. L. Snyder and L. L. Baillie Jr. Following her marriage in 1927, she gave up her paid position in paleontology and began work as a volunteer in ornithology. Her task was to make sense of the massive amount of data collected by the department through the Passenger Pigeon Inquiry. The result of this work was two ground breaking publications on the passenger pigeon published in 1929 and 1935 respectively. Margaret Mitchell left the ROM when she and her husband moved away from Toronto. Margaret Mitchell went on to publish a number of other papers and monographs on birds before her death in 1988.