My family and I visited Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum (the ROM) over the weekend to take in the museum’s latest exhibit. Ultimate Dinosaurs: Giants From Gondwana opened a few weeks ago and is available as an add-on to the standard ROM admission prices. While the museum already boasts an impressive, permanent dinosaur exhibit, Ultimate Dinosaurs is an entirely different experience and one well worth the price of admission.
When talking about a dinosaur exhibit, naturally the stars of the show are the dinosaurs. In this case, they are spectacular. The show, which features specimens from the Southern Hemisphere, includes a wide range of dinosaurs (17 full-sized casts), many in very active poses. Some of these creatures are relatively recent discoveries and many have never been displayed in Canada before now. In fact, the exhibit is a world premiere, the largest dinosaur exhibit ever mounted by the ROM and the largest exhibition of these southern dinosaurs ever exhibited in North America. Among the specimens you’ll see are Giganotosaurus, a 100 million year old Argentinean carnivore that’s bigger than a T-Rex, and Futalognkosaurus (capable of defeating any spell-checker), a 110 foot long skeleton so large it has to be displayed in the public entrance — which means everyone gets a good look at this one, regardless of whether they fork over the extra money for the special exhibit. It’s worth paying extra just to see these dinosaurs that are so seldom represented in typical displays.
We had the boys with us and at nine years old, they love dinosaurs. But they also need some entertainment value if the grown-ups are to be left in peace to really appreciate the specimens and read through the information. Fortunately, the ROM designed this exhibit very well and pulled out all the interactivity stops. There are video game-like stations where kids can manipulate the continents and assemble them into the land mass of Gondwana on a big screen. Walls include massive video screens with ultra-realistic dinosaur animations that respond to people passing by. And the exhibit makes the best use of iOS devices that I’ve yet seen (a shout out to Toronto’s Meld Media for its technological chops).
Many of the dinosaur skeletons are accompanied by specially mounted iPads. Swivel the iPad and point it at any part of the dinosaur and the beast comes to life on the display, fleshed out and moving, with points of interest that let you touch and expand for detailed information. It worked really well and adds a whole new dimension to what is ultimately a relatively static exhibit — skeletons. Better yet, the ROM makes the app available as a free download. On its own, it doesn’t do anything (it’s not a full-blown standalone dino reference app), but installed on an iPhone or iPad and brought to the exhibit, it gives the user personal access to that extra immersive capability. The app is also designed to interact with posters that advertise the exhibit, which is pretty cool. Simply point it at one and the dinosaur on the poster will come to life onscreen and tear its way out of the poster frame. This effect also works when pointing at the pages in the exhibit guide, sold in the ROM gift shops.
Ultimate Dinosaurs: Giants From Gondwana is currently at the ROM in Toronto. If you are planning a visit to the city (or already live there and haven’t been to the ROM in a while), the museum is a great way to spend a day and this exhibit simply makes it better. Cost is an additional $10 for adults and $5 for children.