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Thursday, February 25, 2016

#EmptyRom

Let me preface this post by saying that I love the Royal Ontario Museum. I spend far too much time there. I take my classes there, I take my family there, I take everything there. In 2014, Mr. HitH and I had the chance to take the ROM Revealed tours, which took us back into the curator spaces. Going on the Wild Wonders Experience, we saw DNA being sequenced, fossils being exposed and met Dracorex hogwartsia, a Dragon (um, I mean a dinosaur) named after Hogwarts (and if you don't know what Hogwarts is, leave this blog and go read Harry Potter.  Go.  We will wait for you). On my last class trip, my students and I met Nakht, a 16 year old Egyptian boy who died about 3000 years ago.  These stand out as my best ROM experiences...  until #emptyROM.

The sun rises over the Crystal
The ROM held an open call on their blog for people to apply to join their #emptyROM tour.  On this tour, 10 people would be let into the ROM before opening, and allowed to roam amongst the dinosaurs and early mammals. Mr. HitH loves history. I love science. This is the exhibit that brings us together. We applied. The day I got the email that we were in, I may have done a little happy dance.

I don't want to brag, but I was #1
We were so excited to be going that we both booked vacation days and woke up at 5:15 a.m.  You see, we had to be at the ROM for 8:15 a.m., and the day was stormy and snowy, so we left Hamilton at 6 a.m. to be sure we would make it on time.  We did. In fact, we were early enough that we had to go hang out at Timmy's for a bit.  It was nice. It was like we were home in Hamilton.

Our cubby
Once we were in, we met our hosts, Ryan Dodge and Lexie Buchanan. Together, they have turned the ROM into a social media juggernaut.  You think I exaggerate?  You would be wrong. The ROM has 13 very active twitter accounts, 3 facebook pages, tumblr, instagram and snapchat accounts. They assigned us our cubby for coats and bags. At the ROM, artifacts don't all live behind glass, and if you have a large coat or bag, it is entirely possible you will knock something very old and very valuable over. So, even when you are in an #emptyROM, you have to store your stuff.

The Rotunda
Before we went to see the dinosaurs, we stopped in the Rotunda, my absolute favourite part of the museum. The ceiling, a mosaic, is filled with symbolism and represents many of the cultures found within the ROM. The beauty is breathtaking. When I'm on school trips, I always try to find 15 minutes to just sit and soak it in.

However, there was no time to soak today.  The dinosaurs were waiting for us. However, before we entered the James and Louise Temerty Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs and the Reed Gallery of the Age of Mammals, we got a quick preview of a new gallery coming in 2017 - The Dawn of Life.  I follow ROM palaeobiologist Dave Rudkin on twitter, which means I can easily identify these as trilobites. However, it was fascinating to find out that these trilobites were found in the Humber river by two brothers.  They brought them into a fossil ID clinic at the ROM, and very kindly donated the fossil once they found out the importance of what they had. Also, kids are awesome.

A torrent of trilobites
With that, we moved onto the main event, DINOSAURS (is the 5 year old in you freaking out yet???) and MAMMALS (ok, it doesn't sound as exciting, but there is a mastodon!).
Caw.  Caw.
I'm using this in class the next time a kid argues that birds couldn't have evolved from dinosaurs.
Fun biology teacher fact. What animal is the closest living relative of a Tyrannosaurus Rex?  Scientists were able to DNA sequence collagen found in the bones of a T Rex, and then compared the proteins with modern species. So, who is that relative?  Let's just say if you go to Jurassic World, don't go eating KFC in front of the T Rex enclosure.

I love all dinosaurs, but I might love triceratops the best. I think this is because I watched Land Before Time too much as a child. Cera was the best. If you disagree, I will fight you.
Oh, hello.
Is he fleeing the giant turtle-like dinosaur?  I WANT TO KNOW.
Shhhh.  If you step wrong, you're gonna wake up Mom!
Look how majestic he is!
I'm relatively sure this is an Albertosaurus. Why don't we have an Ontariosaurus?
I swear I've felt these guys brush past my legs while I swam in Lake Erie
They believe they can fly. They believe they can touch the sky.
Watch out for hidden Tyrannosaurses
See?  Triceratops.  The best.
This was an excellent day to be warm and cozy in the ROM!
Now, onto the mammals!

The mammals
Would fit right in in today's forest, in my opinion
He's clearly practicing Blue Steel.  I wonder if he's an ambiturner.
More biology teacher fun facts.  Those teeth mean that he was a vegetarian.
This guy, however, enjoyed his meat.
Clearly, cats have been causing trouble since FOREVER
How do you function with those teeth?  FASCINATING.
Going out with only one tusk?  That's a masto-don't! No, actually, he was injured in his lifetime. Now I feel bad.
Sadly, 9:30 a.m. came too quickly, and we had to empty out of the gallery and take our leave of the amazing ROM.  What an amazing experience.
The entrance (that no one enters through) outside the Rotunda
The carvings here are simply amazing
Bye, ROM.  See you soon!
We were going to stay in Toronto and play, but worried that the roads would just get worse.  So, we hit the QEW and came home to Hamilton - and stopped at Ark and Anchor for some coffee. While we were there, we decided to unbox the gift bag that the ROM gave us on our way out (yes, they gave us a gift bag).  Truthfully, I was expecting a cute dinosaur and that's about it.
Our gift bag.
His name is Fernando
Along with Fernando and a ROM chocolate bar, they also gave us a gift membership for a year.  The generosity of this - when we were so excited to be allowed into the gallery early that we would have been thrilled to pay for the opportunity - was breathtaking and we cannot wait to take advantage of our new memberships.  Obviously, this post wasn't influenced by the gift, and if you follow on twitter, instagram or snapchat, you'll know how excited I was to be in the ROM long before I had any idea that they had been so generous.  Be prepared now for even more ROM content over the year - because I get to play now!