Founded 100 years ago by Canada’s “Indiana Jones” – Charles Trick Currelly – the Royal Ontario Museum is the subject of two stamps issued April 14 by Canada Post. Currelly was, to say the least, a colourful character. An only child, he attended the local school in Exeter and was known to visit the shops of the blacksmith, tanner, and wheelwright in order to study how different materials were used. He was tutored by Reverend Jasper Wilson in Latin, who also taught him how to shoot.
Currelly’s high school years at the Harbord Collegiate Institute brought his family to Toronto. During this time, Currelly participated in art lessons and nature studies. After graduating in 1894, he attended the University of Toronto’s Victoria College like his father and grandfather. He studied biology and earth science courses in addition to Asian history and the Romance Languages. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1898. He then began working as a lay missionary for the Methodist Church at the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Northern Manitoba. After receiving his master’s degree he found himself attracted to the field of archeology after meeting the famous Egyptologist Flinders Petrie.
The meeting resulted in a job offer, and Currelly spent several years working in Egypt including discovering the tomb of Pharaoh Ahmose I. At this time he also started purchasing artifacts for collectors in Canada. One of these was Sir Byron Edmund Walker, a president of the Canadian Bank of Commerce and patron of the arts. In 1905, Currelly was appointed the curator of Oriental archaeology at the University of Toronto. He was fundamental, along with Walker, in founding the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in 1914 and was its first director. He remained as the head of the museum until he retired in 1946.
The museum opened to the public on March 19, 1914, in a ceremony conducted by Prince Arthur, the 1st Duke of Connaught and Strathearn and governor general of Canada. The first expansion was the addition of a new wing in 1933, followed by the opening of the McLaughlin Planetarium in 1968. The planetarium was later closed and turned into a children’s museum and later used as storage and office space. In 2009 it was sold to the University of Toronto who announced plans to demolish it to make way for new facilities in the law and business faculties. In 1984 the Queen Elizabeth II Terrace Galleries were built. They were, in turn, torn down to make way for a controversial new entrance structure named the Crystal.
Today, with more than six million items and 40 galleries, the ROM attracts more than one million visitors each year.
Gerald Querbin and Doreen Colonello of Entro, narrowed the selection down to just five items, emblematic of the diversity of the ROM’s holdings. According to Colonello the stamps are designed to showcase the objects themselves.
“Each piece is a monument to our history and a work of art,” she said. “We didn’t want to interfere with this beauty, so it’s secondary, simple typography, and lots of white space.” The first stamp shows a Shiva Nataraja sculpture, a mummified Egyptian cat, and a bison. The second stamp shows a fossil of a Parasaurolophus walkeri, and a luohan figure. The fossil is of a crested dinosaur that lived more than 70 million years ago. The example shown was found in Alberta in 1920 and named after Walker, who was Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the ROM at that time. It is one of three known species of a Parasaurolphus.
The luohan is a term used in Theravada Buddhism to describe one who has attained nirvana. The statue is one of a group of around eight life-size glazed sculptures allegedly found in China and exported to art dealers around 1912. Both stamps are permanent domestic-rate issues. Ottawa printer Lowe-Martin produced the stamps using five-colour lithography on Tullis Russell paper, with general four-sided tagging. A total of 300,000 were produced in booklets of 10 self-adhesive stamps with simulated perforations. The booklet covers show a view of the Crystal, officially named the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. Lowe-Martin also produced 150,000 souvenir sheets with two stamps and images of other items from the museum, including the specimen of the moustached bat, native to North, Central and South America. The sheets are printed on Tullis Russell paper but have water-activated adhesive and 13+ perforations.
A further 12,000 souvenir sheets were used for the official first day cover, which has a Toronto, Ont., cancellation dated April 14, 2014. Canada Post has also produced three prepaid domestic postcards. Two use the same design as the stamp, while the third one reproduced the image from the booklet cover.