Exclusive: Human rights museum exhibits revealed

WINNIPEG — What will be in Winnipeg’s new $351-million human rights museum, first planned more than a decade ago and the first federal museum to be built outside the country’s capital area?

Global News has received information about the 11 galleries the museum will hold, including detailed information about the 9,500-square-foot Canadian Journeys exhibit.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, an impressive Antoine Predock-designed structure that has come to dominate tourism photos of Winnipeg, is scheduled to open on Sept. 20, more than 11 years after the late Israel Asper announced his intent to create such a space.

RELATED: Canadian Museum for Human Rights: A decade of building

His family took up the cause when he died in 2003, with his daughter, Gail Asper, spearheading the massive undertaking.

The exterior was officially completed when the last pane of glass was placed in the museum’s Tower of Hope in September 2012, but no date was set for its opening amid uncertainty about funding for exhibits. However, that hurdle was also overcome and the fall opening was announced in November.

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The interior of the building, which will take visitors from “darkness to light,” as the museum website says, will feature 11 galleries. The following are the museum’s descriptions of the spaces:

1. What Are Human Rights?

Visitors are immersed in a multi-sensory experience when they enter this physically imposing installation, featuring an “object” theatre and undulating timeline that presents a survey of human rights concepts throughout the ages and around the world. (7,000 square feet)

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2. Indigenous Perspectives

Aboriginal concepts of humanity and our responsibilities to each other are explored in one of the most dramatic spaces of the museum. The focus is a circular theatre of curved wooden slats representing the multitude of Canadian aboriginal traditions, which will play a 360-degree film and serve as a space for storytelling, performance and discussion. (2,700 square feet plus outdoor terrace)

3. Canadian Journeys

This largest gallery takes a multi-layered approach to dozens of Canadian human rights stories from French-language rights to the Chinese head tax, from voting rights to cultural dispossession in the North. A digital canvas relays stories across a 956-foot screen, while others are told in floor stations and story niches. (9,500 square feet)

(A more detailed description of this gallery can be found below.)

4. Protecting Rights in Canada

Legal aspects of Canadian human rights are examined here. An ambient “living tree” projection evokes the constant growth of laws with social change, while a digitally interfaced debate table allows visitors to explore pivotal cases from different perspectives. (2,000 square feet)

5. Examining the Holocaust

This gallery explores the fragile nature of human rights and the importance of defending them for all. A “broken-glass” theatre examines Canada’s own experiences with anti-Semitism. Touch-screen monitors allow visitors to analyze Nazi techniques of genocide and compare them to methods used in other genocides around the world. (4,500 square feet)

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The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg will include a 4500 sq ft holocaust exhibit. Global News

6. Turning Points for Humanity

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a central focus of this gallery, examining how grassroots movements have expanded the concepts of rights. Large monitors relay the power of activism and the role of social movements in motivating change. (3,200 square feet)

7. Breaking the Silence

This gallery explores the role of secrecy and denial in many atrocities around the world. It includes a focused examination of the Ukrainian Holodomor, the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and the Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia. (3,100 square feet)

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg: four other genocides will be featured as part of a 3100 sq ft “Breaking the Silence” exhibit. Global News

8. Actions Count

Human rights express a vision for the world we wish to create for the next generation. This gallery includes an interactive table about action against bullying and inspiring stories of Canadians who have worked to make a difference. (2,100 square feet)

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9. Human Rights Today

Bringing visitors face to face with contemporary human rights struggles and action, this gallery features an interactive wall map, a tapestry of human rights defenders and a media literacy theatre. (5,000 square feet)

10. Expressions

A changeable gallery that will feature a diverse range of temporary exhibits focused on many aspects of human rights. (3,700 square feet)

11. Inspiring Change

Intended to spark a personal commitment to positive social change, this gallery incorporates objects and images from events that have promoted human rights and asks visitors to contemplate their own role in building a better world for all people. (3,100 square feet)

POLL: What do you think of the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights?

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress objects to placement of the Holomodor — the mass starvation of millions of Ukrainians by the Stalin regime in the 1930s — in the Breaking the Silence gallery as just one of several other genocides.

“If ‘prominent’ is being lumped in with four other genocides, then clearly we have different understandings of what prominent is,” said Oksana Bondarchuk.

Museum officials defended their decision.

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“If you understand that this is an education journey for human rights, one of the most studied atrocities in the world is the Holocaust,” said museum CEO Stuart Murray. “This is about a human rights journey. It’s not about square footage or size.”

Canada’s Journey is the largest of the 11 galleries. It will contain the following 18 “story niches,” most of them eight-by-eight-foot “boxes,” Canadian Museum for Human Rights planning documents state:

  • Cultural Dispossession in the North will convey the importance of land and tradition in the lives of the Inuit People.
  • Residential Schools will explore the First Nations education facilities’ lasting impact.
  • Disability Rights will look at stories of discrimination and activism.
  • Fragile Freedoms will explore the issue of personal freedom versus state security, using the example of the 1970 October Crisis.
  • Underground Railroad will look at the human rights abuses of slavery.
  • Japanese Canadian Forced Relocation
  • Winnipeg General Strike
  • Chinese Head Tax
  • Right to Vote
  • Women’s Rights
  • Gatekeeping will present the experiences of refugees and the fragility of their status.
  • Racial Segregation
  • Métis Rights
  • Migrant Workers will show the challenges faced by temporary agricultural workers in Canada.
  • Stolen Sisters: Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women
  • Same Sex Marriage
  • Language Culture and Identity
  • Religious Oppression

RELATED: Canadian Museum for Human Rights coverage on

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