Originally published on Torontoist on May 11, 2015. Disclaimer: since this story was written, I have worked on several projects for Myseum. As I re-post this piece, Myseum is in the midst of its annual Myseum Intersections festival, which is full of interesting exhibits and events.
Myseum of Toronto executive director Karen Carter introduces the initiative’s concept.
It doesn’t have a dedicated physical space. Its name will irritate spell-checkers. But those behind the Myseum of Toronto initiative hope their efforts to create a non-traditional historical institution will spur community involvement in documenting the evolution of our city.
Unveiled at a press conference this morning, the Myseum states its mission is “a celebration of the evolution of our communities, cultures, and urban and natural spaces. It connects our recollections of the past with our visions of the future through the ideas, art and artifacts we share. Through the Myseum, we aim to bring about a deeper, more personal understanding and appreciation of all that is Toronto.”
In short, it wants to turn the entire city into a living museum exhibit designed by you.
Promotional image for Myseum, 2015.
Unlike past proposals for an overall civic museum, which have envisioned sites like Old City Hall and the Canada Malting silos for a permanent space, the Myseum will exist as an online presence (including Facebook and Twitter) and through pop-up events. The first, “Myseum on the Move,” will send a bus around the city in late June to collect artifacts and stories from the public to help build its digital collection. This method of gathering material drew comparisons to library bookmobile programs. It also highlights the “my” portion of the initiative’s name, allowing the public to shape the material being presented.
Structurally, the Myseum is a privately-run non-profit, whose board of directors include former City of Toronto mayor David Crombie. The initiative was initially launched as a registered charity with seed money from founder and current board chair Diane Blake. A workshop in June 2014 brought together a cross-section of people involved in local heritage to envision a civic museum, and involved discussions around funding, inclusiveness, and programming. “People just say, ‘this has been on the go for so long, like, just get out there and do something,’” Blake told the Globe and Mail earlier this year. “So that’s what we’re really trying to do.”
Promotional image for Myseum, 2015.
Myseum executive director Karen Carter, who previously held the same position at Heritage Toronto, repeatedly mentioned at the launch the concept of “co-creation” of exhibits with the public. She views the initiative as an opportunity to foster civic pride through “a greater recognition of this city’s value, increasing our recognition of this city as an essential place for urban narratives.” Regarding the Myseum’s name, which was created in association with brand management firm Interbrand, Carter noted that the organization wanted to respect past attempts to create a “Museum of Toronto,” yet not use that label.
“We don’t love this city as much as we should,” Carter observed. “We are really hard on ourselves. It’s time for a love-in.”
As I mentioned in the disclaimer, I have done some work for Myseum since its establishment, the largest project being contributing much of the text for the interactive screens used for the “Myseum x Sonic Boom” exhibit for the “Music From People City” program which ran from November 2017 to January 2018.