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City staff recommend turning Old City Hall into a ‘Museum of Toronto’

Samantha Beattie, The Star
January 17, 2018

Old City Hall could be transformed into the first museum to solely explore Toronto’s history after the courts vacate the historic building in 2021.

In a report released Wednesday, city staff propose that Old City Hall — a national historic site and designated heritage property — include a “Museum of Toronto” focused on the city’s history. The proposed museum would include temporary and permanent exhibits, a public library branch and a wedding chamber. The report says the museum would have 25,000 square feet of exhibit space could become a “must-see” attraction for more than 225,000 visitors a year.

The building could also house restaurants, lounges, special events spaces, offices, a museum gift shop and incubator and academic space, said the report.

The executive committee will consider the staff recommendation next week. Council could vote on the item at its meeting later this month.

Councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s) said he’s been “obsessed” with establishing a city museum since he was first elected councillor in 2011. Old City Hall is an ideal location, he said.

“Old City Hall, given its historic role as Toronto’s former seat of government and the iconic grandeur of the building, should be used for a public purpose,” Matlow said.

What better use than a museum that shares Toronto’s rich history, he said. “There are stories of Indigenous people on this land. There are stories of many waves of immigration that built the city we know today. There are stories about who we are as a people. I want visitors to come to Toronto and fall in love with our city and its story.”

The city has more than a million archeological specimens currently in storage, some of which could be displayed at the museum, along with artwork and other historical artifacts, Matlow said.

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