Two weeks ago in London, England, at the 2016 Leading Culture Destination Awards – the event known as “The Oscars for Museums” – Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) took home the Best Soft Power Cultural Organization Award.
The accolade, which was part of a brand new segment of Soft Power awards for 2016, recognizes “institutions that have contributed most to the developing sphere of urban governance by influence and persuasion”; a fitting tribute to an institution that challenges all visitors to strive to do better.
The CMHR was chosen over two finalists for the award: the Bamiyan Women’s Community Centre, Afghanistan, and the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews (located in Warsaw). This accolade joins 30 international, national and regional awards the museum has won – in areas as diverse as architecture, communications, new media, and design – in its short two-year history.
While prestigious awards are one indication of the CMHR’s prominence as a cultural institution, it’s not until you’ve visited and immersed yourself in the experience that you can truly comprehend the scope and power of this architectural marvel.
Scattered throughout its ever-climbing 11 permanent galleries, the CMHR is constantly adding temporary exhibits.
One such exhibit is Girl of Courage: Malala’s Fight For Education, which will be on display until March 2017.
This powerful display details the humanitarian work of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani education advocate who in 2014, at 17 years old, became the youngest Nobel laureate as the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Photo courtesy of the CMHR
Malala is now known around the world, having survived an assassination attempt on her life in 2012 by the Taliban. For years, this remarkable girl (along with her parents, who ran several schools) had been a vocal advocate for female education in Pakistan and beyond, even as the Taliban took over her home region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Girl of Courage details her remarkable story, from her work as a blogger for BBC Urdu at age 11, to her global work for universal education after surviving the Taliban attack when she become an inspiration for millions.
The exhibit displays two incredible artifacts, including the very outfit she was shot in – a tremendous symbol that has now become a uniform form for human rights – along with her Nobel Peace Prize Diploma, itself a historically significant document. There is also a video featuring Malala that details her story, including an interview with her on how important this school uniform is for children around the world to witness.
Be transported to Guatemala with a virtual reality (VR) experience that’s part of the Empowering Women exhibition
Sharing a similar motive is the Empowering Women exhibit (on now until January 2017), which details the movement to create female artist cooperatives across the globe. The exhibit displays stunning handmade arts from Asia, Africa, and parts of the Americas, while a virtual reality feature (the CMHR is known for its world-class new media displays) transports visitors to Guatemala, where you’ll be immersed in the sights and sounds of women’s weaver groups.
Sticking to this artisan thread is the Freedom of Expression in Latin America exhibit, which provides accounts, weighty works of art, and an augmented reality feature, to show how art had been used as an educational and expressive tool by repressed peoples during Pinochet’s brutal dictatorship in Chile.
In this exhibit you’ll see arpilleristas – patchwork pictures created by female Chilean artists – that depict these acts of repression, while an iPad is available to further detail – via augmented reality technology – the story behind these pictures. For instance, by holding the iPod overtop of one particular arpillera, you’ll learn the story of Carman Gloria Quintana, told through images, interviews and text entitled “Stitching our Struggles: Resistance Through Art.”
And this is just a sample of the incredible stories – most of which utilize a combination of artifacts, architecture, and new media displays that involve sound, touch, and more, you’ll encounter in the CMHR’s 11 galleries.
There is no museum like it in the world, and there are countless ways to explore and view its galleries, whether by self-guided tour (give yourself several hours), or by one of the CMHR’s daily guided tours.
Guides discuss the seven teachings, as symbolized by the wolf, turtle, bear, eagle, bison, beaver and sabe, on the Mikinak-Keya Spirit Tour (Tourism Winnipeg)
One of our personal favourite guided tours is the Mikinak-Keya Spirit Tour, where Indigenous guides unveil the connection between First Nations’ sacred teachings and the physical makeup of the museum.
This tour – which is just one of many offered at the CMHR – will leave you mesmerized by all the thought that went into the museum’s architectural elements, all while you learn about the oral histories and traditions of the region’s Indigenous peoples.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is open six days a week, Tuesdays to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (with Wednesdays being 10 a.m to 9 p.m.).
For information on tickets and holiday hours, click here.