The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) has accelerated the launch of a new online feature in response to the COVID‐19 pandemic, inviting people to share their human rights stories by video.
Initially envisioned as a way to collect personal stories about contemporary human rights issues,
“Share Your Story” now creates an opportunity for people to connect and relay their experiences during the pandemic. Participants aged 18 and over are invited to record and upload short videos (up to two minutes) through their mobile phones, tablets or computers.
Questions posted on the website will prompt participants to share stories on themes related to the pandemic, which has changed the way people live all around the world. The first question asks: “What acts of kindness have lifted your spirits during the COVID‐19 pandemic?”
“This new initiative has been launched at a time when people around the globe are dealing with a broad spectrum of challenges that we could not have imagined only a few short weeks ago,” said CMHR President and CEO John Young.
“At this difficult time, we hope to encourage a focus on compassion and community, which are fundamental to human rights. But there are other relevant human rights issues playing out as well, including the right to safety, freedom of assembly and the right to an adequate living standard – just to name a few.”
Young said digital outreach is an ongoing priority focus for the CMHR as a way to encourage thought and discussion about human rights among people who cannot be physically present at the Museum in Winnipeg. “In normal times, that means people who live in other areas of Canada or around the world,” he said. “Right now, it means everyone.”
The CMHR – like most other cultural institutions around the world – has temporarily closed.
Other online features:
- Last week, the Museum posted a new virtual tour with a guide who gives online visitors a small taste of the galleries and remarkable architecture. The tour is appropriate for families and students of all ages. This first installment showcases some of the diverse exhibits in the Museum’s Level 2 galleries – Indigenous Perspectives and Canadian Journeys – with views of the stunning alabaster ramps. The 25‐minute recorded tour is available in English and French.
- For children at home, the Museum offers an interactive student resource called “Be an Upstander,” designed to help young people follow the example of real‐life human rights defenders to take a stand on issues important to them. As they work through this innovative website – which includes fun drag‐and‐drop features – kids will learn that they too possess traits of a human rights upstander. They’ll then be challenged to take tangible steps to create change. The site includes a link to a comprehensive guide for teachers or parents to help children complete a related project.
- The Museum recently posted a link to a feature‐length documentary called Picking Up the Pieces: The Making of the Witness Blanket. The artist and filmmaker decided to make it freely available online in order to share the power of storytelling and testimony during this time of fear, uncertainty and social isolation.
- The Witness Blanket is a powerful artwork by Carey Newman about the atrocities of Indian residential schools in Canada and stands as a national monument to the children. Evoking a woven blanket or quilt, this large‐scale installation is made from pieces of 77 former residential school sites across the country. It contains over 800 objects contributed by survivors, communities, governments, churches and organizations. It is now in the care of the CMHR, where it will be conserved for future exhibition.
- Website visitors can explore the Spirit Panels, which adorn the circular “basket” theatre in the Indigenous Perspectives gallery. These 13 works of art by Indigenous artists were created after workshops with Indigenous youth and Elders, held in every province and territory by the CMHR and the National Association of Friendship Centres. The site explains each panel through text, photos and videos – including youth talking about what human rights mean to them.
- The Museum also offers a virtual gallery tour through its mobile app, where participants can learn about exhibits and architecture through narration, images and video. In some galleries, the voices of curators and program developers are used to explain their work. This audio tour is available in English, French and sign language. The app can be downloaded to a mobile device by searching “CMHR: Journey of Inspiration” in the App Store or Google Play.
- In addition, many inspiring human rights stories can be found on the CMHR website, as well as informative posts about past, present and future exhibitions.