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CMHR building national and global reputation: Annual Public Meeting

A glass and steel building on a snowy evening, positioned behind an illuminated sign that says Winnipeg.

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News release details

Winnipeg – February 19, 2019 – Four years after opening its doors, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) is already becoming an iconic global landmark and destination, participants at its Annual Public Meeting heard today.

“Just as Winnipeg’s skyline changed with the arrival of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, so too did Manitoba’s tourism landscape,” Colin Ferguson, president and CEO of Travel Manitoba, said at the meeting. A goal has been set to increase annual tourism expenditures in Manitoba over the next three years by $600 million to $2.2 billion, he added.

“We now classify the CMHR as one of our ‘boulders’ – an anchor tourism product that attracts visitors from long-haul markets. It’s one reason Manitoba was listed by Lonely Planet travel guide among the top 10 regions in the world to visit this year.”

CMHR President and CEO John Young said 70 per cent of visitors who bought tickets for the Museum in the past two years have come from outside Winnipeg. “We’ve seen tourists to Churchill who never used to leave the Winnipeg airport spend an extra night because they want to see this museum,” he said. “Many visitors driving across Canada have also told us they decided to stop in Winnipeg specifically because of the Museum.”

Young said the Museum’s profile will be raised even more by its depiction on Canada’s new vertical $10 banknote as a symbol of Canada’s ongoing pursuit of rights and freedoms.

Attention from national and international travel writers and media has also been valuable. In the past two years alone, over 160 journalists from outside Winnipeg have visited the Museum, coming from all across Canada and the United States, Germany, Japan, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, France, India and Mexico. Last summer, the Museum was profiled on CTV’s popular program, “The Amazing Race Canada” for the second time. In December, Airbnb named Winnipeg among the top 19 destinations in the world for 2019, with prominent mention of the CMHR — the same choice made by National Geographic Traveler for 2016.

“This kind of global travel media attention has never happened before,” Ferguson said. “Our province is currently one of the hottest spots in the travel media world, where unique and off-the-beaten path destinations are highly valued.”

Travel Manitoba has become a new sponsor of the Museum’s blockbuster exhibition, Mandela: Struggle for Freedom, which was extended to this fall due to popular demand.

The Museum’s global reputation is also growing in the fields of museology, technology and human rights, Young said. Last September, the CMHR hosted the annual conference of the Federation of International Human Rights Museums, attracting participants from 22 countries. Collaborations have been forged with museums and human rights groups in Ukraine, Armenia Brazil, France, South Africa and other countries.

The Museum has also welcomed technical delegations and planners from institutions like the Smithsonian and the future Barack Obama Presidential Center, while creators of a new museum in Leipzig, Germany say their institution was inspired by the CMHR.

The CMHR’s leaders, experts and curators are also being asked to share their knowledge and experience at dozens of conferences, forums and seminars around the world from Korea to Colombia, Mexico, Japan, Croatia, the United Kingdom and the USA.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is the first museum in the world solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights. It is the first national museum in Canada to be established outside the National Capital Region. Using multimedia technology and other innovative approaches, the Museum creates inspiring encounters with human rights appropriate for all ages, in a visitor experience unlike any other.

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A few highlights of 2017–18:

  • On March 8, 2018 (International Women’s Day) the Bank of Canada revealed the design for the new $10 bill featuring civil rights trailblazer Viola Desmond on one side and an image of the Museum on the other.
  • For the 150th anniversary of Confederation, the Museum developed Points of View, a crowd-sourced exhibition of photos submitted by people from across Canada. Components of the exhibition have travelled to the International Peace Garden at the Canada-U.S. border as well as to Calgary, Portugal and Spain.
  • Rights of Passage: Canada at 150 opened in November 2017, presenting an overview of 150 years in Canada’s human rights history, exploring key debates and issues that have been central to the evolution of the Canadian conversation on rights, freedoms, justice and equality.
  • The Museum’s “After the Apology” dialogue series emerged as another Canada150 signature project, exploring the aftermath of official government apologies for historic wrongs. In 2017–2018, the Museum hosted a gathering in Winnipeg to consider the apology issued to Indian residential school survivors, and another in Vancouver about the apology issued to Japanese Canadians interned during the Second World War.
  • The President’s Lecture Series creates opportunities for Museum visitors to engage in dialogue with leading thinkers who hold diverse perspectives on essential human rights issues. In 2017–2018, the Museum welcomed Dr. John Borrows, an expert on Indigenous legal tradition, and journalist Michael Petrou, who discussed connections between ISIS propaganda and the Yazidi genocide.
  • In June 2017, the Museum was chosen as one of the top two attractions in Canada by online voters in USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice travel awards. In November of 2017, Destination Canada included the Museum’s “Exploring a Canadian Landmark” experience to its curated collection of “Canadian Signature Experiences.”

Looking ahead at 2019:

  • A new temporary exhibition about the crisis facing the Rohingya people of Myanmar is being developed for opening this summer. Through the lens of internationally acclaimed photographer Kevin Frayer and stories from members of the Rohingya-Canadian community, the struggle and resilience of the Rohingya will be brought into focus.
  • This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 – a milestone in Canadian labour rights history. Building on its existing content about this famous strike, the CMHR will mount a new exhibit about the achievements of organized labour that have affected our lives today. Themed Museum programs will include a labour rights tour, in-gallery activities and public speaking events.
  • An executive leadership program on Indigenous and human rights will be offered to business and organizational leaders from across Canada after a successful pilot last year. This unique new program is designed to help leaders shape workplace cultures that respect Indigenous and human rights and contribute to reconciliation.
  • A new website with a focus on storytelling, launched last year, will continue to be enhanced – expanding the Museum’s human rights education efforts across Canada and around the world. This Digital Dialogue Initiative also includes encouraging thought and conversation on social media.
  • The work of the CMHR’s first Educator-in-Residence is also focused on using digital technology to remotely engage students and teachers in human rights programs. Initiatives under development include virtual field trips and two-way video teleconferencing with rights defenders and role models.

Media contacts

Maureen Fitzhenry