Museum London was established in 1940 and operated from the London Public Library until 1980 when Canadian-renowned architect Raymond Moriyama was commissioned to design its current home at the forks of the Thames River in downtown London, Ontario. In 1989, the then London Regional Art Gallery amalgamated with the London Historical Museum and the historic Eldon House and Gardens creating what is known today as Museum London.
Museum London’s activities are driven by a mandate to collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret the visual arts and local history. We present a dynamic mix of interconnected exhibitions and programs that have both local and national relevance. Our exhibitions and programs are often cross-disciplinary, augmented by interpretative material, publications, symposia, discussions, lectures, films or other events. As such, they provide visitors with a range of interactive, interpretive experiences.
In presenting exhibitions and programs to the public, the Museum often works collaboratively—as a strategy to share financial, human and intellectual resources—with individuals, community organizations, and other galleries locally, nationally and internationally. The local organizations with whom we have partnered or are currently building partnerships with include the University of Western Ontario (departments of visual arts, film studies, museum studies and the McIntosh Gallery), Fanshawe College, and Forest City Gallery, the London Public Library system, as well as a variety of community groups including Mainstreet and the Creative City Task Force. The Museum also collaborates nationally and internationally with numerous organizations such as the Walter Phillips Gallery (Banff), the Winnipeg Art Gallery (Winnipeg), the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax) and Art Gene Limited (United Kingdom), to disseminate, publish and present contemporary art initiatives.
The Museum’s curatorial activities reflect a cross-disciplinary approach to programming and incorporate a mix of solo, group and thematic exhibitions developed by both in-house and guest curators that meaningfully contribute to the examination or re-examination of artistic practice within the wider canon of Canadian art history. The Museum strongly supports the ongoing practice of local artists through our programming, as well as through touring exhibitions, and by supporting the initiatives of local artists outside our community. Recently, for example, Museum London provided administrative and promotional support towards Jamelie Hassan’s participation in Imagining the Book, an international exhibition of works responding to the idea of the book at the Biblioteca Alexandrina, in Alexandra, Egypt. The Museum also provided advice and editorial support in the preparation of Wyn Geleynse’s successful application for the Paris Studio in 2007.
By way of extensive exhibitions, publications, and numerous behind the scenes activities, we regard our support as an essential service in the export of local talent. Our support of local and regional artists is extended through studio visits with in-house or visiting curators and our ongoing commitment to local practice is also demonstrated through the acquisition of works for the permanent collection. An active touring exhibition program is yet another example of our initiatives to extend contemporary art discourse.
Museum London is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of 19 members elected from the general membership, artists and appointments from various stakeholder groups including the City of London, the Museum’s Volunteer Committee, the London and Middlesex Historical Society and the Canadian Artists’ Representation organization.
The Museum employs 18 full-time and 15 part-time staff members and is supported by more than 600 members, and a group of 185 docents and volunteers who provide tours, staff the Museum shop, Art Sales and Rental and develop numerous fundraising initiatives.
Museum London is a Class A facility with 20,000 square feet of exhibition space. In 1991, the Museum built a new underground storage facility, which included office and conservation areas. In the past 5 years capital works projects, at a cost of $3.5 million have included the re-cladding of the Museum’s exterior, refurbishing of exhibition galleries and the upgrading of lighting, flooring and environmental controls. These upgrades have created barrier-free accessibility to all areas of the Museum for a much improved experience for our visitors.
Museum London receives financial support from the City of London, and is also able to utilize the resources of the City’s information technology, facilities management and risk management departments. In addition to municipal support, programming and operations assistance is also procured from the Ontario Arts Council and through project grants from various agencies such as the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and institutional partners such as the London Life Insurance Company who contribute annually to the development of the museum’s educational and outreach programs. Corporate sponsors, private donations and fund raising events add significantly to the Museum’s ongoing programming and operations.
The Museum’s primary audience is comprised of the nearly half a million residents of the City of London and surrounding Middlesex County. This constituency includes notable arts organizations such the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Western Ontario, art and design departments at Fanshawe College, H. B. Beal and Saunders Secondary School, and the Forest City Gallery, among others, and is augmented by visitors to London as well as the audiences that receive our publications and exhibitions through our dissemination initiatives.