C.1 Assessments – New or Renovated Museums

Royal Ontario Museum Expansion 2007. Has this renovation/expansion, at a cost of over $300,000,000, contributed to the cultural well-being of Toronto?

California Academy of Science. This new museum in San Francisco, built at a cost of $500,000,000 incorporates a green roof, as well as renewable energy systems that have become the backdrop for all visitor experiences.

Do you know a new or renovated museum?  How well has it begun to address the challenges and opportunities of the individuals and communities that surround it?  How do you judge this impact?  How have the obstacles to engagement changed from before to after the new construction?


One Response to “C.1 Assessments – New or Renovated Museums”

  1. dcworts Says:

    Royal Ontario Museum (website) and California Academy of Science (website)

    In Toronto Canada, a plan was launched in the early 2000s known as the city’s ‘Cultural Renaissance’. Part of that initiative was a massive renovation/expansion project at the Royal Ontario Museum, known as ‘Renaissance ROM’, part of which involved the building of a new ‘Crystal’. Initially the new construction was supposed to be made largely of glass, supported by a steel structure. Architect Daniel Lieberman eventually realized that glass was going to cause enormous problems with leakage, maintenance and light (on sensitive museum collections), so the addition was redesigned to be primarily metal clad, with dramatic ‘slits’ of glass. The construction phase ran overtime by more than a year. The official cost of the renovation was $270,000,000, however it may well have cost much more as a result of significant delays and redesigns. So late was the project that ROM management decided to open the building empty, rather than waiting an extra year until exhibits could be developed and installed. The concept was to introduce an ultra-modern, ‘iconic’ addition that contrasts dramatically with the traditional classical architecture of the 100 year old institution. The adult admission of the ‘Renaissance ROM’ is $22 for adults.

    The California Academy of Science, in San Francisco, was designed by Renzo Piano. The new facility claims to be the largest LEED Platinum building in the world – which sets the highest standards for energy efficiency, and includes infrastructure to produce energy. There is a large array of photo-voltaic panels to generate electricity from the sun, as well as a large green roof helps to insulate the building, absorb carbon-dioxide and produce oxygen. Highly efficient systems are in place to conserve energy and lighten the ecological footprint of the operation. It was certainly a very expensive building, however, the building itself has become a demonstration project for one of the greatest issues of our time – becoming energy efficient and reducing its reliance on the use of fossil fuels. An adult admission to the museum is $24.95.

    There are many issues to explore using the Critical Assessment Framework. It is hard to say how these two new museums compare with regards to the experiences of individuals. Audience research reports that examine the quality of visitor experiences would be very useful. In both cases, access to the museums demands the payment of a high admission fee. In the case of the California Academy of Sciences, it does seem to addressed one of the greatest challenges of our time – the reliance on fossil fuels as an energy source. The very fabric of the San Francisco building models how society needs to think differently about redesigning lifestyles, especially in North America, to make them more sustainable. The ROM has made no similar investment in energy efficiency. In fact, many of the galleries can not be controlled sufficiently to exhibit sensitive artifacts without building ‘micro-climates’ to house them.

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