The Royal Ontario Museum opened a new exhibit last weekend, “The Art of Collecting,” with the hopes of acknowledging the many donors that the museum has worked with over its history. The exhibit is designed to be “eclectic,” and it certainly delivers on that. It includes everything from furniture to silver to paintings from all over Europe and spans a time period of over 500 years. While I’m usually a huge fan of anything ROM, this exhibit lacked cohesion. There were some beautiful artifacts, but as far as I could tell from the exhibit’s display, they had nothing to do with each other. As a visitor, I was left wondering how a 17th century silver tea set from England and a 1970s desk chair from Norway were related. Such a wide range of objects made the exhibit feel more disorganized than diverse.
Aside from a panel explaining the various federal laws governing artifacts (which read like a textbook), there was no further information about the individual items. The exhibit explained that each artifact represents the “best or most typical” of the era, but without any further context it was impossible to understand the significance. A museum is more than a room full of pretty artifacts, and “The Art of Collecting” falls short.