As a world class city, Toronto deserves a museum dedicated to the many stories that comprise its vibrant history. Showcasing our rich cultural history in a centralized space is an initiative that began forty years ago with Mayor David Crombie but has proved an elusive endeavour to date. Over the years several locations have been proposed, including Old City Hall and the Canada Malting site, but the idea has yet to materialize.
Did you know that the City of Toronto has an extensive collection of local cultural artifacts and ephemera? Unfortunately, the majority of this Historical Collection (comprised of 1.3 million artifacts and archaeological specimens) is currently stored away in warehouses around the city. These relics of Toronto’s history deserve a proper venue for their public showcase and I plan to finally make this decades-long vision a reality.
That’s why I’ve been actively advocating to establish a City of Toronto museum at Casa Loma, on the property’s north campus which includes the hunting lodge, stables and potting shed. Cities like Montreal and Sydney, Australia operate successful city museums out of similarly-sized venues that are also existing local historic sites. So should we.
City Council took an important and critical step in 2012 toward establishing a Toronto City Museum at Casa Loma by supporting motions I put forward along with motions regarding its governance by Councillor Mihevc. While moving on ways to better operate and preserve Casa Loma, a historic Toronto icon, Council endorsed our idea to ask for expressions of interest from Torontonians to create a space to share our city’s history.
In 2013, Council took a significant step forward toward supporting a museum of the City of Toronto at Casa Loma by selecting a new operator for the main portion of Casa Loma and approving funding for a feasibility study for a city museum in the north campus. The City selected the Liberty Grand Group, which has a proven track record of restoring heritage properties for the purposes of an event space. The new operator has also expressed great enthusiasm toward a museum and is even installing some exhibits within the main portion that will begin to tell Toronto’s story.
Fortunately, we also have a new mayor who supports improved built and cultural heritage planning for Toronto. Mayor Tory has expressed the need to do better; to develop a more speedy process for preservationists and property owners alike. His declared interest in establishing a city museum also signals an optimistic move toward better preserving and displaying Toronto’s cultural heritage.
I will be sure to share further information with you here when the feasibility study is completed.