Toronto Museum 2.0 -

E.J. Zufelt everett at
Fri Mar 5 01:01:33 UTC 2010

I am eagerly awaiting Saturday's launch of this online museum app so that I can see how inaccessible it is to persons with certain disabilities, including myself a blind Torontonian.


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Toronto Museum 2.0

March 04, 2010

Denise Balkisoon


MEL CHAIR: Kingsboro Taxi presented then-mayor Mel Lastman with this chair by artist Elaine Bannett in 2000.

A pink beaded train that Lady Eaton wore in 1915 to meet King George IV. A certificate adorned with ornate calligraphy, certifying that a would-be 1921
immigrant had paid his Chinese head tax. 

Tired of waiting for money to build a museum of Toronto to display such objects, Karen Carter and the “history weenies” at Museums and Heritage Services
are going digital. 

“I like to think of ways to manifest our dreams when we can’t have the perfect dream,” says Carter, the city’s museums administrator, who secured a $305,000
federal heritage grant for the site. For two years, she’s worked with city curators and design house Ecentricarts to build a vibrant, interactive site
to showcase the most absorbing bits of Toronto ephemera. 

Using a Flash-based program called Zoomify, Ecentricarts chopped up high-resolution images into tons of tiny little files. That means lightning-fast scrolling
and zooming through pristine photos. Users can home right in on the down of the pink ostrich-feather fan that Lady Eaton carried that historic night. 

Launching Saturday, the Toronto Museum Project website tells this city’s stories through 400 choice morsels of art, architecture, clothing, and photography.
The hope is that we’ll get so excited that we’ll start lobbying for a museum again. 

But there’s one big problem with such a cool, absorbing site: It might be easy to lose track of why we wanted a real museum in the first place, as we point-and-click
our way through the legends of how our teeming metropolis came to be.



For decades, there has been talk of an actual, physical museum, where Torontonians could learn about the history of this piece of land from the post-ice
age era through our ongoing waves of immigration. 

As recently as 2007, the museum project was called Humanitas, and the city committed $20 million from its 2012 budget to get it built inside the old Canada
Malting silos on Queens Quay. But then came the recession, says current museums administrator Karen Carpenter, and the funding and political will fell
through (again).

Among the potential museum sites batted about in the past were the old main post office at the foot of Bay St. (since become the site of the Air Canada
Centre) and Old City Hall. The lease for the provincial courts in the latter building will end in 2017, and Carpenter says the idea of using at least part
of that historical space for a city museum has recently been floated again. In the meantime, those who care about Toronto’s past can visit the city’s 11
mini-museums, such as Fort York, or surf the Toronto Museum Project website from the comfort of their own homes.  

Everett Zufelt

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