It may look like a heap of dirt under the Gardiner Expressway but to the folks at Fort York National Historic Site it’s the sweetest pile of earth that’s ever been moved. Last month, construction got underway on the long-awaited Fort York visitor centre, a 26,000-square foot museum facility that will finally give the fort a front door through which to welcome the city.
“I can go back to files from 30 years ago citing the need for a visitor centre at Fort York,” says museum administrator David O’Hara. “This project really has been a long time coming.”
October is history month and Toronto’s historic museums are marking the event with a look back to 1812 as part of this year’s bicentennial celebrations. The trouble for an historic house like Spadina Museum is that the building didn’t exist in 1812 so there are no artifacts to propel a discussion.
But that didn’t stop curious historic interpreters Ann McDougall (above) and Cathy Mancuso from creating a kind of artistic scavenger hunt with small installations scattered across the Spadina grounds. Both women are artists who contributed to The Encampment at Fort York National Historic Site this past summer and that experience of creating art based on historical record provoked the pair to do something similar at Spadina. This Sunday (October 14) from 12 – 4 pm, the artists lead guided tours of their installations around the property. READ MORE
The Royal Ontario Museum uncorked its summer blockbuster this week with previews ahead of the public opening on Saturday (June 23). Called Ultimate Dinosaurs: Giants from Gondwana, the show was curated, designed, and produced by the ROM and will tour to other international museums after it closes in the fall. Ultimate Dinos focuses on creatures found in the southern hemisphere (Gondwana), many of which have only been discovered in recent years and have never been seen before. The exhibition is enhanced with touch screens and activation sensors that trigger animations as visitors approach them. iPhone and iPad apps have been deployed that use “augmented reality” technology to bring transit shelter ads to life. Technology and dinosaurs? Kids are going to love it!
The Royal Ontario Museum uncorked it’s latest blockbuster this morning with a media preview of Maya: Secrets of Their Ancient World. The exhibition, which opens Saturday, explores the fascinating empire that thrived in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula from 250 – 900 CE. Nearly 250 artifacts, including large sculptures, ceramics, masks and jewellery, have been assembled from museums in Mexico and the US, as well as from the ROM’s own permanent collection. Objects, models and videos reveal numerous aspects of Maya culture, which was shrouded in mystery until the end of the 19th century. Most of the artifacts have never been seen before in Canada and some of the finest pieces have only recently been excavated. Maya: Secrets of Their Ancient World runs until April 9, 2012.
As part-time jobs go, being a historic museum interpreter is anything but run of the mill and that’s why Adrianna Prosser likes it. “It’s so much better than ‘would you like fries with that,’ ” she says. “It’s an amazing job.”
Prosser’s training as performing artist has come in very handy in her role as a docent but the actress has taken it a step further and actually created three site-specific plays like her latest effort, The Secret Life of a Schoolmistress, playing at North York’s Zion Schoolhouse this Friday and Saturday (November 4 & 5 at 8 pm).
“My supervisors have really nurtured where I’m coming from as a performing artist,” says the writer/performer. “It’s a lot of work to do for just two performances but there’s always the hope of a re-mount and we sometimes develop our plays into school programs. It’s really about driving a need for further research because as interpretive staff giving tours over and over again, it can get a little boring.”