If you’ve got a kid in TOw, you’ve likely been to the ROM in Toronto, explored its galleries and checked out one of its exhibitions. Me too, and then some. I used to work there and have always been impressed to varying levels by its on display and behind-the-scenes collections.
But never like this.
The story, of course, has been in the news: in 2014, nine blue whales died in the Atlantic Ocean with two miraculously washing ashore in small villages in Newfoundland. The ROM jumped at the huge research opportunity and a chance to bring the story to the public in the form of this exhibition — Out of the Depths: The Blue Whale Story, which opened this week and is on display until September 4, 2017.
Yes, the skeleton of this giant whale alone – the length of two streetcars and 3,700x the weight of my four-year-old – is enough to blow your mind, but what’s really impressive is the context the ROM provides to tell the story of the whale’s history, its biology and future plight.
For example, you can see how much blood pumps through the whale’s heart with every beat (one full household-sized City of Toronto recycling bin), the size of its brain (compared to that of a raccoon) and hear the various ‘songs’ that it and its aquatic relatives make. Whales can communicate the distance from our house in Toronto to our cousins’ in New Brunswick (I added a little bit more context there.)
And there is just the right amount of info and interactive hands-on elements that appeal to a kid-audience – like touching a moose heart (the blue whale’s heart will be on display in the coming months – how? Well, the exhibition tells you this too), a short video game for kids to see how much krill a blue whale can eat (there are three ‘gaming’ stations) and blue whale poo that you can examine under a microscope.
Perhaps my perception has now changed because I get to see things through my kids’ eyes. But I too got swept up in their amazement as they were wow-ed and stopped in their tracks at the first sight of the whale skeleton and eww-ed at the stench of a curator’s watch on display that still stinks from when it was worn during the whale recovering back in 2014.
Exhibitions should tell stories, educate (and yes, sometimes entertain) but most importantly museums should inspire. Watching the final video with them at the end brought home the fact that the story isn’t over. It’s up to us, and those we are raising, to help protect our enormous underwater neighbours.
Getting there: All the logistical info is found here.
Low-down: The ROM galleries plus the Blue Whale exhibition costs $30 for adults and $19 for kids 4 – 14. (3 and under are free.) The Blue Whale is in the main exhibition space in the basement and is in English and in French. The sections are pretty self-explanatory and not text heavy but I did do a lot of reading outloud to ensure my kids understood the story. While there are some hands-on interactive aspects, there aren’t any ‘play’ areas. You can get that up in the Hands-On galleries and with the extra March Break programming.
Mark your calendars: For March Break until Sunday, March 19, the ROM offers extra hands-on marine-inspired activities for families.
More info: Keen to learn more before or after your visit? Here are some interesting facts on blue whales and the ROM’s conservation and research.