Sowing The Seeds Of Collection Development

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is taking shape in Winnipeg with construction of the base building set to be complete by the end of this year.  As exterior construction wraps up and work on the interior begins, those of us not wearing hard hats are busy developing the foundations for our day-to-day operations.  This includes the establishment of our collections programs, policies and procedures.

Which came first – the collections or the Museum?

Many national and local museums were created because a collection existed that told a story, or a number of related stories. The CMHR is in a different situation because it was not created around an existing collection – instead, our collections will be carefully developed to help tell the story of human rights in Canada and abroad and to support the mission and mandate of the Museum.

The Museum’s collections will include archives, art, objects, and published materials housed in our library.


Archiving the CMHR collections
Archiving the CMHR collections

Archival and library holdings will include both digital and physical components and will be a cornerstone of our reference centre, currently under development. This centre will provide museum visitors with the opportunity to further explore the ideas, concepts, events and people encountered on their journey through the Museum.

All of our collecting activities will be guided by strict criteria outlined in a suite of collection policies and procedures. These documents provide guidance and remind us of the obligations we have to the public, to ourselves, and to our heritage. Developing our collections we will be subject to a rigorous process of research, review and approvals.

Did you know that there will be special spaces built within the Museum to house physical collections?

These spaces will have specific temperature, humidity and light requirements that will allow us to create the ideal conditions required to preserve different types of physical collections. Although we can’t develop our physical collections until the preservation spaces are ready, we are already developing part of our archival collection.

Books from the CMHR archives collection
Books from the CMHR collection

The Oral History Program, run by the Research and Curation department, has been hard at work conducting life history interviews with a number of people recognized for their contributions to human rights.  These oral histories form a foundation for research and for the preservation and sharing of human rights experiences. Oral history is one of the many ways the Museum will be able to share stories that will help make human rights relevant and personal, encourage dialogue, and empower us to change thought and action.


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