Published August 21, 2021

It seems like ages since we saw the Royal Ontario Museum’s exhibit Out of the Depths: The Blue Whale Story. It was only four years ago, but seems so much longer because museums were shuttered for most of 2020. This is our first time back to ROM since their reopening and seeing the whales again is a comforting sight.

Get Up Really Close to the Great Whales

Their new exhibit “Great Whales: Up Close and Personal” expands on the previous story of blue whale research to include the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale and the square-headed sperm whale. These whales live in Canada’s east coast areas, particularly the Gulf of St. Lawrence, one of the world’s most significant marine environments.

Great Whales Big Mouth

Pretend to be caught in a baleen whale’s big mouth! Photo Credit: Melissa Mohaupt

The Fascinating Lives of the Great Whales

Different aspects of their lives are covered: how they evolved from prehistoric land animals, how they compare to each other and to other animals (including humans), how and what they eat, even how they feed many other creatures on the ocean floor when they die.

A display showing the whale’s food cycle, proudly labelling “Whale Poop” may make kids giggle but it does help grab their interest. Since whales and humans are both mammals, they must fart too, my daughter exclaimed.

Great Whales Poop

A display about whale poop helps kids giggle while they learn. Photo Credit: Melissa Mohaupt

Learning about the plight of these endangered species can be difficult but the exhibit also manages to show their researchers’ hope for the whales’ survival. A wall with Polaroid-style photos of North Atlantic right whales concludes the exhibit and it’s sweet to see that many of them have names, proving that the whales are like their pets. Some of our favourite names were Freckles, Popcorn, Gandalf and Zigzag.

Great Whales Pics

A wall of North Atlantic right whales and their pet names. Photo Credit: Melissa Mohaupt

Covid Safety at the Museum

Of course, times have changed the way we go to museums. I took note as we went through the Great Whales exhibit of the changes made to make the experience more Covid-safe. These include spaced time slots (even on a Friday at midday, there was less than 100 people attending in a large space), touch-less admittance and mobile ticketing, removed benches in the film areas, and QR code scanning in lieu of interactive touch-screens. One area that still has a touch-screen game of a swimming whale has a hand sanitizer station next to it. Most importantly, the displays are spaced well apart with ample room for people to self-distance. Many of the patrons are families with young children who have quickly become used to the new normal, even if the kids needed to be occasionally reminded not to touch anything and everything.

QR Code

To be Covid-safe, instead of a touchscreen, you can scan a QR code on your phone for quiz answers and information nuggets. Photo Credit: Melissa Mohaupt

Discover the Permanent Galleries

We had time for a stroll through the permanent galleries after the exhibit and some lunch. Some of the usual areas we always check out – the Bat Cave, the Discovery Gallery and the Family Gallery of Hands-on Biodiversity – are currently closed because of necessary safety measures. My daughter was disappointed but we decided to go to the other galleries we don’t normally visit due to time constraints and hunger. Being an animal lover, she found artistic interpretations from every ancient civilization: camels and dragons from China, cats and impalas from Egypt, elephants and lions from the Middle East, snakes from Rome, and more. The grand structures at the Gallery of Chinese Architecture are always impressive, as well as perennial family favourites Gallery of the Age of Dinosaurs and Earth’s Treasures.

Chinese Architecture

The Gallery of Chinese Architecture at the ROM. Photo Credit: Melissa Mohaupt

Royal Ontario Museum

When: Great Whales Exhibit runs until March 20, 2022
Times: Wednesday to Sunday: 10 am to 5:30 pm (Tickets are available up to 45 minutes before closing time)
Where: 100 Queen’s Park, Toronto (at Bloor Street West)

Looking for ideas for events at Museums? Click here for more!