Andrew Furman | Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

University in a museum, museum in a university

Recently, a collaborative studio was undertaken with the Schools of Planning, Architecture and Interiors at Ryerson University. Since each school is housed in a separate faculty, inter-disciplinary learning and the sharing of resources amongst the students and faculty was a goal. Largely successful as a pilot, the studio opened up some long-simmering thoughts about the legacy and history of what the University once was, and what it is shaping itself into.

At one time, the site of the University was a Normal School for education constructed in 1852 and in operation as a place of education, learning, and a hothouse of museum culture for decades. It was the birthplace and original repositories of the current provincial royal museum (ROM) and was the nation’s first publicly funded museum. Also, since 1875, the Ontario Society of artists set up shop in the building, evolving into what is OCAD today. Outdoors, the grounds were encouraged as sites for agricultural experiments for years, eventually leading to the founding of the Ontario Agricultural College in 1874, evolving into what is now Guelph University.

Reminding them of this history they were challenged to re-evaluating the current Master Plan for the campus.  The design proposals were very telling, since most decided to keep elements of the existing campus that professional consultants  wanted to demolish. We wondered if this was tied to the sense of loss of the Normal School, a place where education and museum culture was not only encouraged, but arguably created within its walls that were meant to educate.

Interestingly, the campus has recently dedicated itself to adding to the cultural map with the introduction of the BlackStar Gallery, a dedicated archive and gallery for the presentation and preservation of the art of photography housed in an existing studio building in the heart of the campus. Will this project begin to bring back to the campus curated spaces and experimental zones in which students and the public participate in?

Is this campus part of a growing trend to house museum spaces in-situ? Are partnerships being created between museums and Universities based on nearness or are other factors determining these learning and research unions?

This paper sets out to find what opportunities exist for more sharing of space to occur in the campus for the blending of museum space with spaces of learning that are evolving.