When the inaugural exhibits of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights are completed, they will include hundreds of images representing familiar and lesser-known human rights stories. That’s a lot to look at, and it doesn’t even factor in the visual components of films and other media that will also be part of the exhibits. Most of the images in our exhibits will be photographs, but we will also use reproductions of artworks, sketches, historical documents, photo plates, maps and more.
Our curators, researchers, exhibit designers and contractors work with our image and copyright coordinator to identify potential images that could be included in our exhibits.
There are several ways that we conduct image research. We search the photographic and documentary art collections of regional, national and international archives. Relatively few archival collections have been made available online, so searching an archive is different from using Google – our researchers review thousands of prints, index cards and negatives to locate relevant images.
Canadian Women's Press Club, First Regional Group (1920). Library and Archives Canada/ PA-138982
We also contact news agencies to obtain permission to reproduce photographs of important events they have covered. Media often play witness to human rights events, like the fall of the Berlin Wall for example, so the photos taken as these events happen can be an important resource.
Students Strike in Montreal, Spring 2012 (photo credit: Jessica Sigurdson/CMHR)
Another way we look for photos is through engagement with individuals and community organizations that have been involved in some of the human rights issues being considered in our exhibits to find images that showcase lived experiences and activism. Finally, we may also on occasion issue calls for submissions, inviting the public to share photographs on specific human rights topics. Our collections department does not, however, accept unsolicited donations of images or objects.
By looking for images in a variety of places and working with people to bring their stories into the Museum, our hope is we will offer our visitors new ways of exploring human rights.