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Toronto’s Cultural Services collects art and artifacts

A life-size portrait of the undoubtedly charismatic Mayor Angus Morrison, painted by John Colin Forbes, greats visitors to the art vault. (City of Toronto Art Collection 01-02-01-02-00-A75-15)

On Saturday, May 26, 2012, as part of Doors Open Toronto, I got a peek inside the fine art vault containing a portion of the City of Toronto’s Art Collection. The vault and the offices of the Arts Services department are located in the south St. Lawrence Market, right above the Market Gallery.

Arts Services is part of Toronto’s Cultural Services which has a wide ranging list of responsibilities including public art, gallery spaces, cultural festivals and other activities, the poet laureate, and of more interest to family historians—Toronto’s ten museums, its art collection (about 2,500 works) and its collection of more than 100,000 historical objects and close to a million archaeological objects.

Who knew?!

Much of the art collection hangs in offices and public spaces at City Hall and Metro Hall. The City’s ten museums are relatively small historic sites—houses, an inn, a schoolhouse, a paper mill, a brewery and Fort York. Only about 20 percent of the collection of the historical objects are displayed there. Alas, we have no central Museum of Toronto.

Cultural Services has an extensive website with a lot of interesting content, but at least partially due to its broad mandate, it is challenging to navigate—to say the least.

Here are the highlights, in my opinion.

The art collection is catalogued and the database is searchable. It includes digital images of about 400 works.

You can read more about the historical objects collection and some of the major fonds  and search a very small selection of artifact images.

Be sure to look at the eclectic collection of online exhibits, including a choice of  “full length”, “short” and “very short” histories of Toronto. You’ll find them here.

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