The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) is nearing completion of a new exhibit about the work of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), including the carved Bentwood Box that was used during TRC events to receive offerings that commemorate personal journeys towards healing and reconciliation.
The beautiful box, carved from a single piece of cedar by Coast Salish artist Luke Marston, was a visual centrepiece for much of the TRC proceedings, receiving diverse offerings from participants, including (last week) the ashes of tissues containing the tears of residential school survivors. The new exhibit will explain the role and significance of the TRC in drawing attention to the gross human rights violations and abuses that occurred in Indian Residential Schools, and in promoting healing and reconciliation.
The Bentwood Box itself will be back on display in the Museum's introductory gallery this week as it returns from Ottawa, where it was used in the final proceedings of the TRC. It will be moved into the new exhibit upon completion this summer.
The Museum will also welcome the Witness Blanket in December 2015, a large-scale art installation made out of hundreds of items reclaimed from residential schools, churches, government buildings and related sites from across Canada. The piece – inspired by the look of a woven blanket – recognizes the atrocities of the Indian Resident School era, honours the children and symbolizes ongoing efforts at reconciliation.
"We agree with the TRC that this Museum can play a critical role in raising awareness, holding honest conversations and taking steps towards reconciliation," said CMHR interim president and CEO Gail Stephens.
In its report released this week, the TRC included a section (on page 300) about the Museum's potential as a leader in educating and raising awareness among Canadians by engaging visitors in an examination of the historical violations against Indigenous Peoples, as well as their resilience and survival. This includes creating opportunities to broaden the discussion about the issue of genocide as it relates to the Residential School system.
Museum exhibits invite visitors into a conversation about genocide in relation to residential schools and the colonial experience. The Museum is now examining ways to reflect the significance of the new TRC report and to work with others to advance reconciliation and the human rights of all.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is the first museum in the world solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights. Using multimedia technology and other innovative approaches, the CMHR creates inspiring encounters with human rights for all ages, in a visitor experience unlike any other.