If there is one thing I may live to regret, it’s missing the opening of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg. The opening ceremonies, were just a few days ago, and must have been well worth the wait.
I was fortunate enough to visit in June this year, none of the exhibits were in place of course, but the plan was ambitious, and exciting. Any attempt to bring the topic of human rights to the forefront of public interest deserves applause. The aim is also to attempt to do so in an impartial manner, without judgement, but to highlight different aspects of human rights. It will hopefully encouraging visitors to think for themselves, generating discussion, and debate among individuals.
The building is certain to become an iconic piece of Winnipeg architecture, probably even for Canada, but more importantly it should become a symbol for human rights organisations worldwide. The first national museum built outside of the nations capital, is architect Antoine Predock’s vision. Utilising a number of creative sustainable development practices, it is more than the sum of the materials used in it’s construction.
Designed to resemble a giant ‘glass cloud’ which symbolise light, and hope, the museum connected to the earth, rises directly from it, celebrating nature, and the spirit of Canada. Each visitor may interpret the building differently, but regardless, what the individual may visualise, it’s hard to deny it’s a beautiful, and striking piece of architecture, especially in the light of a summer evening.
The various galleries will initially examine the meaning of human rights, before moving to various other related topics, discussing in detail specific human rights affairs throughout history in several geographical locations. Galleries include:
1. What are human rights?
2. Indigenous Perspectives
3. Canadian Journeys
4. Protecting Human Rights in Canada
5. Examining the Holocaust
6. Turning Points for Humanity
7. Breaking the Silence
8. Actions Count
9. Rights Today
10. Inspiring Change
The Indigenous Perspectives exhibit sounds especially interesting, it was a surprisingly short time ago that liberal nations such as Australia, and Canada committed cultural genocide. This is the definition of depriving a society of it’s culture; families were separated, use of indigenous language prohibited, the aim; to eradicate the aboriginal cultural identity. In recent history, we often think purely in terms of apartheid in South Africa, but cultural inequality was far more widespread than many realise.
How the museum will deal with this sensitive topic, especially in terms of Canada’s own history should provide a fascinating, enlightening, and hopefully popular exhibition. Although the First Peoples, and Métis will feature strongly throughout the galleries, there will also be a specific gallery by Rebecca Belmore devoted to Canadian indigenous art.
When I visited, the use of space, and the way it is laid out was especially striking. Although, there weren’t any exhibits in place, requiring some imagination to visualise how it will appear, it seemed to flow from area to area. Curvaceous, with plenty of open space, it was also slightly surprising to discover the administrators desks, which were clearly visible, would remain so when open, ingenious.
The Manitoba museum should prove very popular, giving visitors more reasons to visit Winnipeg, and maybe discover some of the attractions the city, and surrounding area has to offer. The Manitoba Legislative Building is also worth a visit, especially the evening Hermetic code tour, which is fascinating, like a Canadian Da Vinci code. However, it’s the iconic CMHR building which captured my imagination most.
The striking architecture will have plenty of admirers, but it is what it symbolises which will hopefully strike the strongest chord with every future visitor through its doors.
Have you visited the museum yet, what did you think, and what do you see when you look at the architecture? Add you comments below.
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