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When Charity Gets Clever: The ROM's Fact or Fiction Gala
A fundraiser that shows guests how much they don't know, and how important the ROM is to Canada

It’s fundraising season in Toronto, which is traditionally a blur of fancy cocktail parties, so-so sit-down dinners, and silent auctions for a cause no one really cares to remember. All too often, great stories and opportunities for education get lost in the fanfare, a sea of champagne and double-cheek air kisses.

This is where the Royal Ontario Museum‘s signature fundraiser, Fact or Fiction, stands apart. While there were certainly cocktails and a delicious dinner to be had, the evening succeeded in promoting the museum and educating guests with a clever and hilarious guessing game. Attendees were asked to examine 15 unusual objects from the ROM’s collections, each presented by two curators with two very different stories One story is fact, the other is fiction (and can these curators ever lie!). Guests must decide which explanation is true and the person with the most correct answers wins a luxury trip to the Dominican Republic.

It’s no easy guessing game. Is an intricately beaded artifact from the textiles collection a Nigerian ceremonial gown for twins or a tea cozy made to sell to tourists in Madagascar? Is that weirdly shaped bulb a fossilized pomegranate or a marine animal? You suddenly realize how much you know absolutely nothing about, and how important institutions like the ROM are in continuing education outside the classroom. 

The answers were revealed over dinner by Carol Off and Jeff Douglas from CBC’s As It Happens. Guests quickly forgot about their fancy suits and dresses in favour of hollering, cheering, and groaning loudly depending on how well they were doing. “People are displeased with the ‘fact’ part of the evening,” joked Douglas after sharing an answer most of the crowd got wrong.

Proceeds raised by Fact or Fiction support curatorial research and educational programs at the ROM. The ROM is Canada’s largest extra-curricular educator and field research museum with staff conducting fieldwork in more than 30 countries around the globe.

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