Thursday, 23 March 2017




For my final Musings post, I decided to look at museum mobile apps. Numerous museums have them, which was making it difficult to choose one.

Until I read, “first of its kind for any museum”. . . Canadian Museum for Human Rights, you have caught my attention.

No, check that one out! (source)

According to their website, the app, designed by Acoustiguide, “contains a fully accessible self-guided tour (using audio, images, text and video), interactive map, mood meter, online ticketing, information to help plan your visit, and more”.

Step 1: Download the app, Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Step 2: Explore.

This is a little difficult as I was not at the museum. However, if I was planning a visit, it would be useful as it provides the layout of the museum and what can be found in each gallery. The app was designed to be as accessible as possible and it shows with two written and spoken languages and an ASL option.

The “near me’ option presents the user with information when they are near 120 exhibition elements. Even the map/floorplan are used to present addition information through clickable images (see image below).
Screenshot of the floorplan 

While this app is certainly unique and well-rounded it does raise one concern, as all these apps do: does relying on your phone during a museum visit isolate you from others? Arguably, someone using this app will have headphones on or be reading the text, which could take away from the sense of community within the museum — something important for museums presenting difficult topics. Or worse, it could look like cellphones are taking over the museum; remember the Rembrandt ‘kids on phones’ photo.

Engagement mistaken for boredom. Photo: Gijsbert van der Wal via The Telegraph. 

On the other hand, as long as the user “gets something” out of their experience, does it really matter? After all, apps have numerous benefits including; a museum map they cannot misplace, describe the layout for the visually impaired, provide additional information about an event or artefact, and allow the user to indicate their mood after a gallery. 

Screenshot of the Mood Map available after each gallery

Not all museums can replicate what the CMHR has created. The number of resources required for this app cannot be underestimated and smaller institutions may not have a need for an app this inclusive.

So for my final Musings post, I want to leave you with some things to consider:

1. The role of technology in museums is growing, but remember, any app you create has to be based on the information and collection of your institution. If you do want to create an app, consider what will benefit your institution most: is it a larger, complex app like the CMHR or would a type of game or simple interactive work best?

2. Resources, resources, resources! Consider your resources and if you may qualify for any grants. These apps can be expensive, codes need to be written, designers may be needed, voice actors, translations, Bluetooth technology in your museum, Wi-Fi may need to be installed, etc.

3. Who is your target audience and are they likely to use the technology or support you in creating it?

New technology is wonderful and helpful. But sometimes you don’t need it.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017





The series of digital stories about Toronto history and culture which make up this project are the work of fifty-three Master of Museum Studies (MMSt) graduate students. The project was inspired by the 2015 Myseum Intersections – Telling Toronto’s Stories and invited each storyteller to select an object from local collections which has significance to Toronto’s past and present. The objects inspired the authors to connect historical events with contemporary context so that they tell stories about the multiple intersections that happen in the city.

Musings will be posting collected stories once a cycle. We hope that, after reading the stories, you will know Toronto a little bit better. And perhaps you will find similar stories in your own objects!

Our partners for this project, to which we are extremely thankful, are:

Archeological and Cultural Heritage Services
Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives
John M. Kelly Library, St. Mike’s College, University of Toronto
Lambton House
Myseum of Toronto
Ontario Jewish Archives
Private Collection of Russian Artefacts
Scarborough Historical Society
Scarborough Museum
The Multicultural Historical Society of Ontario
The Real Canadian Portuguese Museum
Toronto Botanical Garden
Toronto District School Board Archives

Now, without further ado, object stories from Toronto Botanical Gardens.



Saffron crocuses. Image credit: Rowan McOnegal, Wellcome Images.
 Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc-nd 4.0, see 
This autumn, look for a small purple crocus with three long, red threads, the stigma, blooming among the foliage of the Toronto Botanical Garden's kitchen garden. This is the saffron crocus (crocus sativa), which produces saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, and an emerging trend on Toronto's cocktail scene.

Saffron has most commonly been used as a spice, giving food a bright yellow colour and a hay-like fragrance. Although no one agrees on its exact origins, by late antiquity saffron had spread across Asia, Europe, and North Africa from somewhere near the eastern Mediterranean. Today it is mainly associated with the cuisines of Iran, Spain, and India. In addition, it has long been valued as a medicinal plant - so much so that in 1671 a German physician penned nearly 300 pages dedicated to medical uses of saffron.

Its medicinal reputation led to saffron's inclusion in herbal tonics. Early modern alchemists believed distilled spirits to be the quintessence, or essential spirit, of plants. [1] Some began adding medicinal herbs to spirits to create flavoured liquors intended for use as herbal health tonics. The spice became a regular ingredient in some recipes. Certain of these survive, as jägermeister, yellow chartreuse, and Drambuie all contain saffron.

Saffron has since become far better known as a culinary ingredient than a medicine, but history has a way of repeating itself, and this time saffron's flavour is at the forefront. According to Joel Kallmeyer, bartender at BarChef, saffron is a nascent trend for cocktails in Toronto. “It's all about the savoury cocktail,” he says. [2] The two saffron-infused offerings on the menu, the Toasted Fizz and the Fox Tail, get their aroma from Chef Frankie Solarik's house-made saffron bitters. When asked about what inspired him, Chef Solarik replied that he already had a cocktail in mind, and the smokey quality of the saffron paired well with the chamomile. [3] Toronto is embracing saffron as part of its culinary cocktail culture, producing new recipes featuring the spice – and history is repeating itself in other ways, too.

BarChef's Fox Tail cocktail.
Photograph by Shanlon Gilbert.
BarChef has had really excellent reviews, but if cocktails aren't for you there are numerous culinary recipes you could try. Multicultural Toronto has no shortage of restaurants offering saffron-based dishes from a wide variety of cuisines: try Iranian bastani sonnati, or some Spanish paella, French bouillabaisse, or an Indian saffron pulao. It may just be of benefit: medical institutions and researchers around the world, including Toronto, are conducting studies into the medicinal potential of various compounds derived from saffron, showing numerous possible uses and benefits.

So here's to the saffron crocus: a small, unassuming purple flower at the Toronto Botanical Gardens with a rich, multicultural history, and a promising medical and culinary future. Cheers!

*Please note that other than the stigma of crocus sativa, crocuses are poisonous and should not be consumed under any circumstances.

1. Moran, B. T. (2009). Distilling knowledge: Alchemy, chemistry, and the scientific revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
2. Personal communication, 21 November, 2015
3. Personal communication, 21 November, 2015



One third of the food we eat is pollinated freely by bees. However, the world’s bee population has seen a dramatic decrease in recent years, which in turn threatens the future of global food production. Shouldn’t we be concerned, then, that this incredible ability to pollinate is at risk? As citizens of urban environments, this issue may seem removed for us, Torontonians. Nevertheless, many cultural institutions have been part of a grassroots initiative to save the bees. The Toronto Botanical Gardens has joined this effort by building a Bee Hotel! This structure is made out of scrap wood and is designed to house solitary bees when they need to rest. In fact, it looks like a nest hanging from a tree canopy, much like what solitary bees would use in rural areas.
Photo of the Bee Hotel at the Toronto Botanical Gardens, taken by Anja Hamilton
The causes of the decline in bee populations are explained in the panel placed beside the Bee Hotel. It notes that urbanization and the use of toxins, like pesticides for agricultural land, have made rural areas less habitable for bees. There is also some evidence that climate change has also had a significant effect on the amount of pollinating bees can do. Although warmer days earlier in the year can be a blessing for us, it has disrupted the synchronized timing of when flowers bloom during the summer and when rural bees go out to pollinate.

However, city-dwellers can help support a sustainable urban population of bees. Groups such as the Toronto District Beekeepers’ Association and the Ontario Beekeepers Association have set up beekeeping initiatives that help establish and grow urban bee populations. In fact, it was with the help of the Toronto Beekeepers Co-operative that the Toronto Botanical Gardens was able to have on-site beehives, which are kept for the health of bees, as a teaching resource for their beekeeping courses and to harvest honey used in products such as soap sold in the gift shop. These beehives also help pollinate their plentiful gardens throughout the growing season. In an innovative and engaged city like Toronto, the Bee Hotel represents the city’s continuous interest in learning more about global issues. Also, it gives creative examples of what people can do in their own urban environment to help out. Plus, beekeeping is a pretty cool hobby, with some delicious and healthy results. For those who are less adventurous and would rather not have a Bee Hotel in their backyard, the Toronto Botanical Gardens also provides a list of plants that city-dwellers can grow to promote sustainable, healthy bee populations in the city. What else can we do in Toronto to help our local bees?
Check out the Bee Hotel for yourself at the Toronto Botanical Gardens to find out more!



A “Living Fossil”
After surviving through extremes of climate and then migrations across the globe to places like Toronto, little has changed for the Ginkgo biloba tree (Figure 1 below). Ancestors of the Ginkgo biloba date all the way back to China, almost 200 million years ago, and even to the age of dinosaurs. These slowly-maturing trees have the ability to live to advanced ages, and the oldest Ginkgo tree is estimated to be 3,500 years old. [1]

Figure 1: Ginkgo leaves and seeds found next to their fossils from the dinosaur gallery.
(Photo taken by Katherine Ing at the Royal Ontario Museum).
What’s in a Name?
From its inconspicuous appearance, the Ginkgo tree in the herb garden of the Toronto Botanical Garden (TBG) can be easily overlooked amongst the greenery (Figure 2). The Maidenhair Tree is its common name for its resemblance to the maidenhair fern but its scientific name, Ginkgo biloba is surprisingly much more well-known. The tree can be identified by its trunk which branches into a dense canopy of shady, fan-shaped leaves divided into two lobes or “biloba”, in Latin. The Asian characters in Chinese and Japanese can be translated into “Silver Apricot” which is the source for its species name “Ginkgo.”

Figure 2: An immature Ginkgo tree located in Toronto Botanical Garden’s herb garden.
(Photo taken by Katherine Ing)
A “Memorable” Survivor to the Senses
More mature Ginkgo trees also populate the TBG’s grounds. Ginkgos are among a few species of trees that can be further divided into different sexes. Male trees are known for their cone-shaped stamens while female trees have flowers. In the late fall, rotten-smelling fruits develop from the female flowers and can be a deterrent to those unfamiliar with it. Beneath its smelly flesh, the “Ginkgo nuts” are sold in Asian grocery stores to be cooked in kitchens in many cities across North America, including Toronto, for their benefits to respiratory and kidney issues (Figure 3). Since the trees are tolerant to pollution, road salts, temperate climates, and a range of soil conditions in cities, they can be found in many urban areas. [2] Outside of Asian countries, Ginkgo leaves were transformed into pills to help with memory retention.

Figure 3: Fallen Ginkgo seeds from a mature female tree covered in wrinkly, smelly skin.
After removing the skin with gloves, the “nut” can be cracked open and cooked into a congee (rice porridge).
(Photo taken by Katherine Ing)
Ginkgo trees and its fruits can be found in many sites across Toronto whether growing outside the city’s buildings, filling dinner plates in Chinese homes or Asian restaurants or stocking shelves of local pharmacies or health stores. The story of the tree might be familiar to many Torontonians who have family origins outside Canada, but take root, “flourish” in new soil and grow into their new environment. Gardeners at the Toronto Botanical Garden made a deliberate choice to recognize the local Iroquoian population and more recent arrivals who have contributed to plant knowledge in Canada. The herb garden is recognition of the medicinal usages of different plants who arrived to Canada with different cultures both native and those from afar.

1. Peter Crane, interview by Roger Cohn, Yale Environment 360, May, 1, 2013
2. Missouri Botanical Garden. “Ginkgo biloba.” Accessed November 23, 2015.

Works Cited
Crane, Peter. (Interviewee). Ginkgo: The life story of the oldest tree on Earth. By Roger Cohn. Yale Environment 360, 2013, May 1. Accessed November 21, 2015.

Del Tredici, Peter. “The evolution, ecology, and cultivation of Ginkgo biloba.” In Ginkgo biloba, edited by Teris A. van Beek, 7-23. Australia: Harwood Academic Publisher, 2000.

Marcelis, David. Ginkgo trees stink up cities when seeds fall. Wall Street Journal, November 24, 2014. Accessed December 2, 2015.

Missouri Botanical Garden. (2015). “Ginkgo biloba.” Accessed November 23, 2015 from



Located to the left of the main parking lot, a path leading into the Toronto Botanical Garden (TBG) guides the way to the burial grounds for the Milne family. This cemetery is a secret that, once discovered, reveals stories about past Toronto landmarks. The Gardens’ librarian Mark Stewart recalls that the Milne’s were the original settlers of the current TBG land. He had also mentioned that the large pavilion located atop the grassy hill behind the Garden’s caf√© was where their home once stood before it burnt down in 1921. I was on a mission to find the cemetery and to discover its story.

The hiding spot. (n.d.) Toronto Botanical Gardens. Toronto, On.
Photograph by Danielle Rutkowski. 
Enclosed by an aluminum fence, the Milne Family Burial Grounds holds the large marble tombstone of Helen, “Daddy” Milne’s mother, Eliza and Hannah Milne. Accompanying their tombstone are three small fragments of slate that are dedicated to the memory of eight different family members, three of which are “Daddy” Milne’s brothers.

Milne family burial plot. (n.d.) Toronto Botanical Gardens. Toronto, On.
Photograph by Danielle Rutkowski.
Charles Sauriol’s Pioneers of the Don recounts the tales of the pioneers in Don Valley, an area that evolved into the town of York, and eventually grew into the city of Toronto itself. The Milne’s are featured in the book as masters of the weaving trade. Born in Scotland in 1777, Alexander, or “Daddy”, as Sauriol calls him, Milne immigrated to United States in 1801 to pursue a career in the weaving industry. The draw of the cotton bleaching business brought him to New Jersey in 1813. “Daddy” Milne immigrated to Toronto in 1817 and the Milne’s built the first of three wool Mills in the Don Valley. This first mill was located slightly south of Lawrence Avenue, about half a mile west of Don Mills Road. It was abandoned due to a lack of hydropower. The second mill was swept away in the great flood of 1878 and the last mill was built by Milne’s son, William and his son, Alexander W. Milne. 

The mill settlement consisted of sixteen buildings, with homes for mill workers, a wagon shop, and a dry goods store. It was even said that the sheep were washed in the river before shearing. Tender boards covered in drying wool would then be tore to shreds by a picker before it was woven into yarn.

We may not see the sheep being washed in the creek anymore, nor hear the shutter of the looms and clank of the spindles but, instead, the memory of the Milne’s is encapsulated in the cemetery of the family burial plot. For those of us who find or stumble upon it, the Milne family burial plot is the hidden link between their prosperous past and TBG’s contemporary landscape. This cemetery is a timeless reminder that people are the foundation of Toronto, bringing together cultures, communities, and places through the stories they share.

Sauriol, C. (1995) Pioneers of the Don. Serv-A-Trade. East-York, Canada.



When visiting the Toronto Botanical Garden (TBG), I expected to see flowers and plants, but not “Stooks and Punes,” a temporary art installation by landscape designer W. Gary Smith.

The “Punes” of “Stooks and Punes.” (Rachael Thiessen) 
According to TBG website, “Stooks and Punes” are representations of “a collection of magic, whimsy and meaning plays on the enticing possibilities of nature, and graces the permanent site of the proposed children’s garden.” It also notes that Smith’s inspiration for his sculpture was derived from the Garden, Canadian agricultural history and “punes,” the childhood name his brother gave to his cowlicks. [1] The creation of Smith’s art piece was possible through the work and contribution of Toronto’s local community and the city’s natural resources.

On my visit, “Stooks” —two circles of coned tree-bunches— were missing, but “Punes” were at their regular place.

The “Stooks” were formally located in the background behind “Punes.” A photo can be found on the TBG website. (Rachael Thiessen)
“Punes” is comprised of a circular and branching, or dendritic, pattern. [2] Smith explains that the dendritic pattern emulates a flow of energy and can make intimate connections between humans and nature. “Stooks and Punes” is the collective work of TBG staff and 300 local volunteers who built it from natural materials. The TBG “is a volunteer-driven charity dedicated to disseminating horticultural and gardening information,” making community participation for such projects common. Smith used natural materials from TBG, as well as materials from gardens maintained by GTA members of Landscape Ontario. Landscape Ontario represents over 2000 horticultural professionals who have developed numerous connections with other GTA organizations and associations to “promote the benefits of landscaping and horticulture.” [3] The dendritic pattern of “Stooks and Punes” emphasizes not only these volunteers’ connection to nature, but also their connection to each other, the material they used and the many places these people live throughout the GTA. 

Smith says his passion for the natural world is rooted in his early childhood in Newark, Delaware. [4] While not a Toronto or GTA native, the construction of his art allowed residents of the community to come together and encounter new areas of their city. With “Stooks” already gone and “Punes” sure to follow, the connection they helped build between communities will be only a memory. [5] Nonetheless, members of the TBG and its community can look forward to the building of the some new children’s garden in the future.

1. Note. All general information on structure and connections to the TBG can be found on their website at
2. Note: These patterns are ones Smith uses in many of his works and are described in his book. Smith, W. Gary, (2010) From Art to Landscape: Unleashing Creative Activity in Garden Design (Portland, Oregon: Timber Press Inc.).
3. Note: All information about Landscape Ontario came from their website at
4. Note. All references to Smith and his writings came from his above-mentioned book.
5. Note: With the TBG listing ‘Stooks and Punes” as a temporary exhibit, it can only be assumed that “Punes” will eventually be taken down as well.



“The green grass and the happy skies court the fluttering butterflies.” – Terri Guillemets, Quotation Anthologist,

Famous English playwright William Shakespeare once penned that we will all laugh at gilded butterflies, while legendary American boxer Muhammad Ali advised that we should float like the gentle insects. However, it is the Toronto Botanical Garden that hopes we look to butterflies, one giant Monarch butterfly in particular, to tell the time and learn how the movement of the sun affects the plants that grow in our Toronto backyard gardens.

Although the sundial is the oldest known human invention used to measure time, it remains an important tool for teaching, a neat intersection of ancient customs and modern practices. Today, if we want to know the time we check our watches or cellphones. Few city-dwellers go outside to track the sun’s location to determine the hour. As we move further into the age of technology and our city continues to grow, our interactions with nature become fewer. However, the Toronto Botanical Garden is bringing us back to basics, re-connecting us with nature through an ancient timekeeping gadget. The Garden’s staff employ outdoor exploration and colorful fun to teach about nature in urban environments so visitors can still enjoy nature even in a large city like Toronto!

The giant Monarch butterfly Sundial is located in the Spiral Butterfly Garden, a sub-section of the TBG’s Teaching Garden. Consisting of bright orange and yellow cement tiles, the dial plate of the sundial is laid out like a mosaic. The pattern of the dial plate resembles an open flower or the sun itself. The sundial’s gnomon is a decorative Monarch butterfly with large, closed wings. The tawny-orange and yellow-brown wings with black veins and white spots unmistakably mark this butterfly as a Monarch. The butterfly rests upon the dial plate, drinking the dewy drops that have collected on a bright green leaf placed in the centre of the sundial.

Giant Monarch Butterfly Sundial, Teaching Garden, Toronto Botanical Garden
Photograph courtesy of Alyssa Trudeau [Thursday, November 5, 2015]
The Monarch Butterfly Sundial was crafted by Anvil Artistry & Wrought Iron Designs, funded and installed in 1998 by the Garden Club of Toronto. Founded in 1946, the Club has played a key role in designing and planting gardens that beautify the city. These gardens are not only new and vibrant spaces for Torontonians of all ages to explore, they also get people talking about Toronto’s unique intersections of nature and urban environments. According to Toronto Botanical Garden Librarian, Mark Stewart, the Monarch Butterfly Sundial was one of many installations commissioned by the Club for the Teaching Garden, a space for children to interact with the outdoor environment that allows for hands-on learning and experiential school and recreational programs. The giant Monarch Butterfly Sundial is surrounded by several plant species that are known to attract butterflies, including the Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) and the Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii). In a large, bustling Toronto, the Monarch Butterfly Sundial at the Toronto Botanical Garden reminds us to slow down, appreciate nature and spend our time enjoying simple things like the flowers and butterflies.

Works Cited
Garden Club of Toronto. (n.d.) The garden club of Toronto: about us. the garden club of Toronto. Retrieved November 17, 2015 from

Toronto Botanical Gardens. (2015). Teaching garden. Toronto botanical garden. Retrieved November 17, 2015 from

Tuesday, 21 March 2017




It seems too soon to be saying goodbye to the (Fun)draising column for the summer. It is even stranger to say goodbye to Musings entirely with only two weeks of school left!

I couldn't choose what topic I wanted to tackle and leave as my legacy *wink-cough* so I decided to share four very important and very different conversations that need to be explored and considered by museum professionals working in the Canadian cultural sector. 

These abstracts came from a panel presentation at the 2017 iSchool Student Conference. This panel session was full of rich ideas, questions, and encouraged all of us to think about the future of museums in both pragmatic and creative ways. 

Michelle gets it - also, we miss you. Source.

Donor Motivations: Do Museums Consider Donor Motivations When Soliciting On-Line Donations? Presented by Kelly MacKenzie 

Fundraising is an important part of a non-profit organization, it aids in keeping their doors open and services running. However, people require a reason to donate to your organization, whether it is their time, money, or possessions. The historiography of this topic tends to focus on large donors as, financially, they play a large role in an organization's fundraising, whether it is through financial aid, their influence, or artefact donations. Small-scale donors, the focus of this examination, are also important. Although small donors do not make up the largest financial contributions to an institution, they can indicate the reach of an organization, its community support, and how well its mission and mandate are resonating with people, both in the community and beyond. This examination focuses on small on-line donors and the donor motivations found on the donation and support sections of nine Canadian museum’s websites, using the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax as case studies.

You know the drill. Source.

Government Grants in Canada: the Commemoration of the War of 1812 - Presented by Kate Seally 

In 2012, Canada celebrated the centennial of the War of 1812. The Conservative Government, in power at the time, decided to heavily fund and promote this centennial for political reasons. I will argue that the distribution of government grants to museums give the Government of Canada a certain ability to control the content of museums. As one editorial published in the late 1990s put it, “he who pays the piper calls the tune.”

They certainly found a hook. Source.

Crowdfunding for Canada's Cultural Heritage - Presented by Dana Murray 

Providing an overview of the evolution of crowdfunding as a fundraising practice, this paper examines how it can be used to promote community building, increase knowledge of a project and build project capacity. Through the bonds forged by the Internet, organizations are now able to approach the global community, reaching out for assistance to protect not merely the cultural heritage of one country or one group of people, but rather the world's cultural heritage as a whole. With particular emphases placed on the use of compelling narratives to attract contributions from the global community, this paper shall establish means by which to emphasize inclusivity, overcome geographical boundaries, and promote symbolic action. It is through an examination of such practices that teacher techniques and characteristics that are transferable to a Canadian context are identified, thus establishing a preliminary guide for similar future initiatives in our country. 

Crowdfunding 101. Source.

A Case for Success: The Intersection of Arts and Health Funding in Canadian Cultural Institutions - Presented by Maya Donkers

The World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing rather than the absence of disease. This definition acknowledges health outcomes as holistic, which in the case of this paper, encompasses individual and community-health enhancing efforts in the arts. This acceptance of health as more than an absent of illness has spurred investigations into the fundamentals of creating programs to sustain health through the arts. This paper challenges the conversations around arts funding in Canada. Specifically, it focuses on the growing interest in dance as a public health intervention through a case study of the Sharing Dance Program at Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS). This paper argues that arts programming should be cross-sectoral to maximize the opportunities for revenue generation. By highlighting a case for restricted giving from granting agencies in Canada, this paper will demonstrate how innovative arts sector programming, that encourages individual and community-based health and wellness, will attract support that would not otherwise be available.

Look at all these smiling faces sharing dance. Source.

The panel session ended with important questions about the identity of organizations during fundraising campaigns; whether crowdfunding is a viable option; how crowdfunding campaigns engage their supporters and build relationships; and whether online fundraising campaigns use images or narrative as a primary means to engage/attract participants.

This discussion is far from over. As Emma's Museum Monday post triggered some immediate concerns for American museums that we need to acknowledge living across the border, it is also our duty to keep arts and culture a critical part of the Canadian landscape. 

It is true that museums would not exist without a collection of some kind.  Collections, public programs, education, conservation needs - all make museums what they are. As Emerging Museum Professionals, I urge you to keep in mind that all those things would NOT be possible without funding.

Let's do our best to make sure funding is not as critical an issue in 
Canada and we may soon see in the U.S. 

Please leave comments or questions for the presenters below, I will pass them along. For full papers, stay tuned for the iJournal publication!

Monday, 20 March 2017




Every December, my family and I watch the Kennedy Center Honors: an annually televised program at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., during which artists are awarded a lifetime achievement in the arts and are celebrated for their careers and contributions. It is a formal event: the U.S. President and First Spouse are always present, and the cameras always pan back to them so audiences can see how they're enjoying the show. This past Honors, I felt a bittersweet feeling as the cameras kept showing the Obamas dancing, mouthing the words to songs, and generally being #couplegoals. As the inaguration of Donald Trump loomed in near future, we wondered, what would the new president's response to the arts be?

Barack and Michelle groovin'. Source.

I wanted to discuss this topic because last Thursday, President Trump announced in his first federal budget plan, a proposal to terminate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). In the U.S. there is a longer and deeper tradition of private funding for the arts than in Canada, and as much of private funding goes to larger, more profitable institutions, there is a fear that smaller museums, galleries, institutions, and arts organizations will be the most detrimentally affected by Trump's proposal.

Although not the most glamorous topic for today's edition of Museum Mondays, grants and other types of financial support from government agencies help support artists and arts organizations. In Toronto, the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and the Canada Council for the Arts helps provide much-needed financial support to people in the arts who display their work in, and collaborate with museums and institutions, and to museums and institutions themselves.

The 'artist' in question. Source. 
Let's look at the numbers. While 40% of the NEA's current funding goes directly to state-wide arts agencies, the rest of the NEA's funding is awarded directly to arts agencies and 65% of that direct funding goes to small and medium-sized organizations (NEA Quick Facts 2017). Furthermore, much of the aforementioned direct funding goes towards organizations who support under-served populations who have the opportunity to benefit from community arts programming.

I'm not yet 100% convinced that Trump's proposal to eliminate these critical funding structures will proceed in practice however, as an Emerging Museum Professional, I'm worried that the job prospects and opportunities for many arts professionals in the United States will be compromised by severe cuts to public funding. Although there is no easy solution to these complex issues at hand, I'm thinking about ways to support our colleagues south of the border while marinating on the real possibility that come December 2017, there might be no Kennedy Center Honors at all, or, even worse, Trump might be dancing in the stands.

My girl Carole King at the Kennedy Center Honors. Source.
As usual, I'd love to hear your comments below! So as not to end on such a somber note, I am planning on graduating after this semester, and this is my last time writing Museum Mondays! Have fun and stay cool my awesome readers! Emma Hoffman: signing out.

Deb, S. (2017, March 15). "Trump Proposes Eliminating the Arts and Humanities Endowments." The New York Times. Retrieved from

Gilbert, S. (2017, March 16). "The Real Cost of Abolishing the National Endowment for the Arts." The Atlantic. Retrieved from

NEA. (2017). "NEA Quick Facts." National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved from

Friday, 17 March 2017




Welcome to my final instalment of Alumni Check-in! Today we are chatting with Jenna Rose, who currently works at Canada’s National Ballet School here in Toronto.

When did you graduate?
I graduated in 2012.

What did you enjoy most about the Master of Museum Studies (MMSt) program?

The program provides so many opportunities to connect with museum professionals in Toronto. Between the Internship Class, Exhibition Course, Museum and Their Publics, and generosity of the professors in introducing students to colleagues, there is no shortage of opportunities to gain valuable professional (and general life) experience.

Where are you now?
I now work at Canada’s National Ballet School as the Manager of Strategic Initiatives. I project manage our Sharing Dance Program (the flagship community outreach initiative of the School) which means I get to do a bit of everything: fundraising (especially grants), community outreach, partner development and stewardship, event planning, budgeting, a bit of communications, and of course dancing. I really love my job!

The 2017 Sharing Dance routine. Learn it and dance on June 2

Does your degree serve you well in your current job? 
Yes – 100%! Arts and culture institutions are all trying to do the same thing – engage communities, provide an enriching and rewarding experience for communities, foster dialogue and collaboration. Instead of trying to engage visitors in a collection, we at NBS try to engage as many people in Canada in healthy and fun dance activities. There are many, many parallels.

Do you have any advice for current MMSt students?
Take deep breaths – I know it is nearing the end of the term and things are stressful, so take a deep breath :)
I advise you all to keep an open mind about the program, and your career path. Amazing opportunities may come up when you least expect it, in places you least expect.

Is there anything you wish you had done while you were in the program?
Spent more time exploring the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library – I never made the time and I wish I did.

Who would you like to see featured in this column next?
It would be neat to hear from a grad from the '70s or '80s before it became the program we are most familiar with today. It would be interesting to hear what has changed and what remains the same.

Thank you to Jenna for agreeing to participate! Please post any questions for her in the comments below and I will be sure to pass them on.

I look forward to seeing where the next editor of this column takes us, stay tuned!

Thursday, 16 March 2017




Do you remember being a kid and scratching your name into a desk? Or perhaps a wall? Or maybe just the street when your mom brought out the sidewalk chalk?

This act, which some would call defacing, is an act of graffiti – the act of scrawling your name or some picture you made onto a public surface.

Archaeologists' fascinating quest to decipher medieval graffiti scrawled on cathedral walls.
Graffiti goes back centuries more than most people realize. It can include cave paintings from Australia, where men left pigment prints outlining their hands, and refer back to the Roman empire when the phrase, “painting the town red,” referred to what Roman soldiers did after conquering a new territory.

They covering the walls of the villages with the blood of those they killed, if you didn't catch my drift. Source

In modern times, it has less malicious roots.
Some say graffiti in North America started with Latin America tribes who immigrated to the states, and would put their language up on walls  to mark territory. However, the only documented credit for where modern graffiti started, and where that credit remains, is with the a collective of teenagers in New York City in the 1970s, who became sick of feeling neglected and forgotten by their city, and decided to do something about it.


Brooklyn and the Bronx in the 1970s were in rough shape. Fires were burning every day, drugs and dealers were everywhere, and everyone wanted a piece of Manhattan but no one could get it.Then one day, a couple of boys, ages 13 and 14, started drawing together at this bus stop bench at 149th Street Grand Course, where the 2nd and 5th lines crossed. They started in note books, eventually getting artists' journals, meeting there everyday to practice their new-age calligraphy style writings. It was aptly named The Writer’s Bench by the future writers who joined these boys to get their name out there.

This humble, blocky style bench, meant for commuters, was the place for some of the most prolific graffiti artists in history. 

Its still there now, the same bench from the 70s. It’s covered in tags, has a plate stating its historic significance, and although it hasn’t been used much by writers since the 1980s, graffiti artists from abroad or who were born in the 80s and 90s will still come to pay a visit to this very important historic site.

The Writer’s Bench was where all the graffiti writers met to sign black books, settle disputes, exchange information about the latest news, and admire or critique each other’s works as it was an ideal view to watch trains 2 and 5 pass by. Lines 2 and 5 had some of the best graffiti art of the 1970s, coming as no surprise as the train yards for both these lines were in the Bronx and Brooklyn.


It was tough competition to get a good tag on those trains. If you wanted to tag a train while it wasn’t in the yard, over looked by security, you would have to go into the tunnels. Many teenage boys would spend their summers lifting up man holes and finding hidden doors all over the city that lead down into the subway station, dodging trains and police officers the whole time. I am sure plenty got hurt, but it didn't stop everyone else from trying. Fallen soldiers aren't spoken about during a revolution.


Hip hop and graffiti have always been intertwined, they are both movements that grew in the ghettos, generated by the youth in need for something in their life to give them purpose, and then spread out into the rest of the world. As hip hop music grew in popularity so did graffiti art and vice versa.

There’s a lot of debate between New York and Los Angeles graffiti writers as to who started the movement first. It’s a tough call because both styles and movements began within months of each other. The most popular story is that one teenage boy was watching the news one night at home, and saw a report about the graffiti happening all over the trains of New York, and thought that’s exactly what L.A. needed. However, L.A. doesn’t have any trains, so the boys turned to buses.

Graffiti was, and still is, a way for young men who feel they have no place in the world to ‘get famous’. By throwing their (street)name out there for everyone in the world to see.
Writers would compete with each other to be the best and most famous writer in their city. The only real way to know if you were #1 is if you could walk anywhere in the city core and everywhere you looked, from every angle, you can see you name, whether it was as a tag, a throw-up, a gallery, or a mural. Only then were you truly famous.  
The boys would say that whenever they saw a train or bus go by with their giant throw-up, or mural, on the side of it, knowing it would reach as far as Wall Street with the men in their suits, it gave them a feeling that they made their mark on the world.
Graffiti started as a way to say, 

“I am here, I exist, and I will be heard.”

Wednesday, 15 March 2017




The Naval Examination Board of Horatio Hornblower.  From the Horatio Hornblower episode "The Fire Ships."  Photo Credit: Source

Rarely, unless they are required to orally defend their thesis, does a person face a challenge such as this.  During this last weekend I was watching an old episode the historical miniseries Horatio Hornblower when I was particularly struck by a scene in the 2nd episode.  Titled "The Fire Ships", the main challenge Hornblower faces is his Lieutenancy Examination.  Three officers fire question after question at him while he can only try and think of the answer on the spot.  The only thing saves him from failing the examination is the timely arrival of a fire ship among the Royal Navy's ships in Gibraltar's harbor  (source).

While watching it, I recalled how in mid-October last year I had the privilege of watching a re-enactment of a Royal Navy lieutenancy exam with all participants in full historical uniform and dress.  While they asked only a few technical questions like Hornblower was, some being more related to the candidates knowledge of the War of 1812, at the time I was able to experience something which I had only really read about in history books and Patrick O’Brian and C.S. Forester’s works.
Royal Naval Re-enactors holding a Naval Examination Board.  Photo Credit: Connor Kurtz, 2016.
What I was able to take away from the experience, and I would hope all take away from their own historical re-enactment experiences, is that even though everything within it may not be accurate  to the last detail, we are able to experience a slightly different way of understanding and knowing an event (source).  This is something which is difficult to achieve with a traditional exhibit and it is what makes tools such as historical re-enactment integral to a museum or heritage space.

For the visitor such a thing, as I know myself, can be a treasured experience when it comes alive before your eyes.  For, even though  it was only a re-enactment in a sense, it still is something which made me think about the test and its place within British naval history on a deeper level.