Explanation of columns and inscriptions at Museum station

For criticism and commentary, here are the explanations of the decorated columns and hieroglyphs at Museum station, provided by the architects, Diamond & Schmitt. Note that the columns and hieroglyphs are well researched and, of course, unnecessary. (And only three columns relate to the actual collections of the ROM.)

Greek Doric column

By the late 7th century BC, numerous Greek temples employed an architectural system in design and construction called the Doric order. The white double columns used to enhance the Museum subway station are derived from that order.

There are several characteristic features of a historic Doric column. It stood directly on the floor of the temple without a base, and the main body of the column gradually tapered towards the top. The shaft was usually made from a series of stone drums placed one on top of the other, and fluting was carved into the stone running from top to bottom.

From the time of its inception in ancient Greece through to mid-20th century, the Doric column has remained an important structural and decorative architectural component.

Bear house post column

The Bear column is modelled after a house post from the Wuikinuxv Nation at Rivers Inlet, British Columbia. The post supported one end of a massive ridge beam that rested between the bear’s ears. The other end of the beam was similarly supported by another post. The roof and walls were constructed of cedar planks and the interior of the house was lined with cedar-bark mats to protect against drifting snow.

The house post was carved from a single cedar log. The fluting seen over the surface of the post was created by the carver’s adze. Crest figures like the bear displayed family identification and status.

This is the only column in the Museum subway station that is directly modelled after an artifact in the ROM. It can be found in the Daphne Cockwell Gallery of Canada: First Peoples.

Egyptian Osiris column

This pillar is inspired by the royal monuments of ancient Egypt that often featured colossal human figures as supporting columns. In the great stone temples dedicated to the cult of the dead king, the monarch was depicted as a form of Osiris, the god of the dead and eternity. The upper half of the column, featuring the royal headdress, the crook and the flail, identifies a king, while the wrapped mummy-like lower half identifies the god Osiris, considered to be the original resurrected mummy in Egyptian mythology.

The hieroglyphic inscription is copied from a relief found on display in the Egyptian gallery at the Royal Ontario Museum and reads:

(The king) offers the best fresh incense to Amun-Ra, Lord of the Thrones of the Two Lands, Lord of the Sky, so that he will give (the king) life, stability, dominion, health and joy like Ra, forever.

Chinese Forbidden City columns

The design of this column is based on the columns surrounding the Hall of Perfect Harmony in the Forbidden City, the palace of the Chinese Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368–1912). Like most Chinese imperial palace and temple buildings, it is built of wood and decorated in bright colours and gilding on both the exterior and interior. The roof is covered with ornamental tiles glazed yellow, a colour only the Emperor was allowed to use.

An example of this type of architecture can be seen in the Gallery of Chinese Architecture at the Royal Ontario Museum, which houses a full-scale reconstruction of a corner of a large palace hall in imperial style of the Qing dynasty. Here the beauty of the complex wooden construction, elaborate decoration, and yellow glazed tiles can be fully appreciated.

Toltec warrior column

This column is one of four located atop a temple in the powerful ancient Toltec capital of Tula, in Central Mexico. The Toltecs dominated this area from around 900 to 1150 AD and influenced other cultures, including the Maya and Aztecs. The figure on the column is believed to represent the Toltec warrior-god Tlahuizcalpan tecuhtli in the guise of the evening star (Venus). Venus is associated with warfare and warriors in many Mesoamerican cultures.

The Royal Ontario Museum has a prestigious history of research in Mesoamerica starting with investigations into the Maya culture of Belize in the 1950’s. Later research included excavations at the Maya sites of Altun Ha and Lamanai, Belize, in the 1970s and 1980s. Most recently the ROM has extended its influence in Latin American archaeology to include research in the South American Andes.

Hieroglyphs in the track-wall letters

The inscription contained within the letters on the track walls is from a limestone relief from the tomb of an ancient Egyptian nobleman by the name of Met-jet-jy, dating to approximately 2300 BC. The original artifact is housed in the Egyptian gallery at the Royal Ontario Museum.

The inscription reads:

I was loved by my father, honoured and praised by my mother. I gave them a proper burial – by royal decree because I was honoured by the king – so that they could praise the god forever. I was a good son from my childhood until their demise, never causing them anger. Moreover, my opinion was considered in every royal project.