Thinking about Ideas Museums: U of M leads human rights conversation

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News release details

News release from the University of Manitoba

Would a virtual reality exhibit make museum visitors more empathetic to suffering? Are Aboriginal rights and human rights the same thing? What can Winnipeg's new Canadian Museum for Human Rights learn from museums in other countries?

Those kinds of questions will be explored by some of the University of Manitoba's most creative researchers in a series of independent conversations starting this fall, as they encourage everyone to think about the museum already altering Winnipeg's skyline.

"This speaker series featuring renowned visionary thinkers will help shape how the Canadian Museum for Human Rights explores the fundamental issues that truly define our community, our province, our country and the world," said President and Vice‐Chancellor David Barnard. "The establishment of this museum creates an unparalleled opportunity for all of us to help determine how best to promote and protect the basic rights to which all people are entitled."

"The mandate of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is to promote dialogue," said President and CEO Stuart Murray. "This speaker series will help us fulfill our mandate while exploring important questions with regard to human rights and the Museum."

We'll kick off the seminar series Sept. 9 and 12 with an inside view by CEO Stuart Murray and head curator Rhonda Hinther of how the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is evolving. Hinther is a U of M graduate and professional affiliate of the university's women's and gender studies program.

The seminars run most Monday afternoons until March, usually from 2:30 to 4 p.m. in Room 206, Robson Hall on the Fort Garry campus. See the full schedule and sign up for email reminders at

The fall term's highlights include:

Sept. 26: Prof. Andrew Woolford (sociology) and Prof. Adam Muller (English) exploring the risks and benefits of using new technologies to appeal to the emotions of museum visitors.

Oct. 31: History professors Tina Chen and Jarvis Brownlie discussing lessons from China and from the fight for residential school compensation in Canada.

Nov. 14: Prof. Fiona MacDonald (political studies) and Prof. Peter Kulchyski (Native studies) investigating the potential impact of prioritizing Indigenous peoples at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. They will be joined by CMHR elder Dave Courchene.

Nov. 28: Prof. Maria Cheung (Social Work), Prof. Terry Russell (Asian studies) and David Matas (Law) arguing that the voices of Falun Gong practitioners persecuted by China need to be heard in a Canadian museum.

All seminars in the series Critical Conversations: The Idea of a Human Rights Museum are open to the public, with the graduate students who attend for credit taking the lead in the lively discussions that will follow each presentation.

"A truly critical conversation about human rights requires the participation of a diverse public audience, since there are multiple experiences of and perspectives on human rights and their denial," Woolford said.

He is organizing the seminar series along with Muller, Prof. Struan Sinclair (English) and Prof. Karen Busby, academic director of the university's Centre for Human Rights Research initiative.

Human rights are a strategic focus for U of M, building on existing expertise and offering all departments and faculties the opportunity to participate. The University of Manitoba already has more than 150 scholars dedicated to the study and promotion of human rights issues.

Earlier this year, the University of Manitoba signed a memorandum of understanding with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to facilitate co‐operation to advance human rights education and research, and to empower people to change thought and take action for human rights.

For more information, contact Helen Fallding, Manager, Centre For Human Rights Research Initiative, University of Manitoba, 204–474-6156 (