Our campaign to finally establish a city museum of Toronto took a major step forward at Councilthis week as my colleagues voted to further develop a design and plans for Old City Hall that include a Museum of Toronto, in addition to a Toronto Public Library branch, and moving the wedding chamber currently at City Hall.
Since 2012, I have been actively working to establish a City of Toronto museum, first at Casa Loma’s under-utilized North Campus. At that time, Old City Hall was not available as it was in active use as a Provincial Court House. However, the courts are due to move in 2021 and I believe Old City Hall is a more desirable place for this purpose from a geographic, historical, and functional perspective. Old City Hall is one of the few sites in Toronto recognized by the Federal government as having historical value. This is a National Historical Site and has been since 1984. Indeed, it was our city’s seat of government from 1899 to 1966.
I am pleased that my colleagues supported my motion to save Old City Hall from becoming a mall in 2015 and, instead, have Staff investigate the feasibility of a city museum at this iconic site.
The initiative to establish a city museum began with former Mayor David Crombie forty years ago, yet Toronto remains one of the few cities of its size and prominence without a dedicated space to tell its stories. It is a shame that the majority of Toronto’s historical collection (comprised of over 1.3 million cultural artifacts and archaeological specimens) remains out of public view in warehouses.
Now that the incompatible court functions are no longer an impediment, we have a rare opportunity to finally move forward with housing a city museum in a building that truly merits showcasing Toronto’s rich socio-cultural and architectural history.