April 30, 2014 4:02 pm

How to get a behind the scenes look at the ROM

TORONTO – This weekend you can get a free look at the artifacts, paintings and rare items normally behind closed doors, as the Royal Ontario Museum opens completely to celebrate its centennial.

For the first time, the public will get to see everything usually reserved for researchers and curators only.

“This is the first time, as far we know, that the entire ROM is entirely open,” Xerxes Mazda, the deputy director of engagement at the museum said. “This is your museum.”

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The ROM will be free to the public beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday and ending Sunday evening.

Among the more fascinating artifacts currently behind closed doors is a whale bone found buried deep beneath Bay Street in 1988.

Mysterious whale bone

Researchers in the museums DNA lab have been able to figure out what kind of whale it came from and when it arrived in Toronto but, the answer as to why, is still out of their grasp.

“The current theory is that some whaler got off a dock sometime in the early 1800s and either on purpose or accidentally dropped his souvenir into the lake where it was dug up 150 years later,” Oliver Haddrath, a technician in the museum’s DNA lab said.

The museum’s DNA lab has been able to confirm the bone is from a killer whale in the North Atlantic.

The DNA lab is usually closed off to the public but will be open this weekend. Haddrath said the work being done in the lab helps discover how life evolved.

“Using DNA to work out where artifacts are from and how weird or strange animals are related to each other and we get a better idea to how they actually evolved,” he said.

But it’s not just whale bones. The museum is also opening up its vast archives of items generally reserved for research purposes.

Samurai swords and armour

Archaeologist Robert Mason walked Global News through its Japanese archives Wednesday and pointed out dozens of Samurai swords and shields.

Curators are forced to keep much of it behind closed doors to provide a balanced perspective, he said.

“The reason is if you go to our Japan galleries, they’re not all about samurai armour. They’re about other aspects of culture, there’s pottery and decorative arts and painting,” he said. “If we pushed all the armour in there, it would look like all Japanese culture was about the samurai, which it wasn’t, it was far more complicated than that.”

The museum opened on March 19, 1914. One hundred years later, it has over one million annual visitors and more than six million pieces in its collection.

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