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A City Museum in a Hockey Temple?

I'm a strong supporter of the idea that Toronto needs a museum of its own. We live in a city that has a less-than-stellar record when it comes to paying attention to (and preserving) our history, and it's high time we established a place where citizens could go to learn about the rebellions, great fires, hurricanes, sports heroes, and aboriginal people that make up the story of Toronto. Urban affairs writer John Lorinc recently composed an open letter to former mayor David Crombie, who is spearheading the effort to birth a Toronto Museum. In the letter he suggests that the empty Maple Leaf Gardens is the perfect site for the museum of Toronto.

I'm inclined to agree with Lorinc for a few reasons. The transformation of Maple Leaf Gardens into a giant Loblaws is probably not the "new ideas need old buildings" philosophy that Jane Jacobs thought was so important to city development, and it seems like a strange use of the historic building. For better or for worse, Toronto is strongly tied to its hockey history, and it would be a funny Canadian quirk for the country's largest city to house its museum in a hockey arena.

The two other ideas for a museum for the city include the construction of a new building on the waterfront or a renovation of St. Lawrence Hall. While I like the sentimentality of housing the museum in St. Lawrence Hall, it seems a little small for the 100 000 objects the city has accumulated, and Lorinc makes the astute point that a museum's collections tend to grow with time, requiring more and more space. I'd love to see a new building on the waterfront, too, but I can imagine such an undertaking would require a huge amount of time and money, which are always in short supply around here. The construction of a new building could take years, too, and I think the sooner we can create a space for our history, the better.

What I'm not sure about is if at this stage in the Loblaws-ification of Maple Leaf Gardens it's even possible to lobby this proposal with any expectation of success, but if it is I hope David Crombie takes it into consideration.

Image of the Gardens by spotmaticfanatic from the blogTO flickr pool.


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