Ethical shopping at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights’ Boutique
The Museum Boutique is a showcase for beautiful local and international items that are consciously curated
At the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) you don’t have to exit through the gift shop – but you should.
Unlike most galleries and museums, the Museum does not try to sell you anything before you leave. It would of course be gauche if it did, given how the imagery, subject matter, exhibitions and architecture of this incredible institution combine to leave a lasting impression on visitors, one that calls for reflection, while also urging change for the better.
Yes, the Museum does have a gift shop, but the Museum Boutique’s purpose is not of the trinket/novelty/unconscious consumer variety. Instead, on its shelves you’ll find an incredible array of thoughtful and thought-provoking gifts, all of which either represent human rights issues or adhere to a mandate of being fair trade, sustainable, ethically sourced and – a true reflection of the Museum itself.
“Every time we add an item we ask ourselves, 'What is the story behind this item and why does it deserve to be in the store?” said Tristin Tergesen, Boutique manager at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, who curates the Boutique along with assistant manager/buyer, Rick Plaseski.
“This goes to everything from alpaca socks from Peru to blankets to toys; everything we have to look at with that lens. And it can be challenging, but I like that challenge.”
The aesthetic of the store itself is warm and comforting, which is purposeful.
“We recognize that the journey through the exhibits, which include heavy, as well as inspiring material can put a lot on a visitor's mind,” said Tergesen. “So we were really looking for a way to make the Boutique experience a little bit lighter and still give the visitor, especially a tourist, the opportunity to come in and find a takeaway that is suitable to them.”
These takeaways represent both local artisans, who have incorporated the ethos of the Museum in their works, along with garments, artworks and goods from around the world.
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The glass windows of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights represent one of the most enthralling aspects of the building, designed by architect @AntoinePredock. Now you can wear a piece of the Museum with this glass mosaic infinity scarf! The scarf showcases the Museum's windows, known as the Cloud. Did you know? The Cloud is made up of 1,669 panes of glass and covers 5,000 square meters. These sheets of glass envelop the southwest side of the Museum to resemble the folded wings of a dove, the symbol of peace. The glass was selected for its environmental properties: it contains a frit pattern to keep the building cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and to let in natural light into the Museum. #Architecture #Architect #Art #Design #Scarf #TheMoreYouKnow — Le vitrage du Musée canadien pour les droits de la personne est l’un des aspects les plus remarquables de l'édifice, imaginé par l'architecte @AntoinePredock. Vous pouvez maintenant porter un morceau du Musée en portant ce foulard circulaire! Le foulard met en valeur les fenêtres particulières du Musée, qu'on connaît comme le « Nuage de verre » . Le saviez-vous? Le Nuage est constitué de 1 669 panneaux de verre et couvre 5 000 mètres carrés. Les fenêtres enveloppent le côté sud-est de l'édifice et font penser aux ailes repliées d’une colombe, symbole de paix. Le type de verre a été choisi pour ses propriétés environnementales : il contient de la fritte qui aide à rafraîchir l’édifice pendant l’été et à le réchauffer pendant l’hiver, et laisse entrer de la lumière naturelle dans le Musée. #Architecture #Architecte #Art #Design #Foulard
The local makers found within the Museum Boutique provide an exemplary snapshot of Winnipeg’s current artisan scene, with many of the gifts that line the shelves a result of artisans approaching – and indeed working with – the Museum to create one-of-a-kind items.
One of the most-popular pieces the Boutique carries is the Glass Cloud Infinity Scarf. This gorgeous textile is comprised of an image by local photographer Nancy McMillian (who happens to be a member of the Museum). The fabric is a design of architect Antoine Predock’s now-iconic glass façade (aka “the Glass Cloud”) which wraps around the Museum and is composed of 1,669 panels of class.
Personally, we are enamoured with this beautiful piece – and so has every person we’ve gifted it to. The tranquil blues in the building’s façade are easy to match in an ensemble, while (not to get all postmodern on you) there’s the idea that the scarf itself is a metaphor – a comforting piece you wrap around yourself – just as the panels of glass envelope the Museum itself, acting like a protective, beautiful cloud.
Other local companies and items that Tergesen points out include Joel Miyazawa’s Fresh Emblem. These laser-etched wood carvings representing Manitoba are a cool wooden ornament for car or home. Tergesen says they’ve had a great working relationship with Fresh Emblem and Miyazawa is now making wood covered journals engraved with phrasing from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) for the Boutique.
Local candle company Coal and Canary too has an item unique to the Boutique that features the UDHR in either English or French. The fragrance of this “All human beings/Tous les être humains” candle is a custom blend of white tea, lemon, geranium and ginger, created uniquely for the CMHR.
If you want to take home an actual piece of the Museum, head to the jewelry section where you’ll see necklaces and bracelets from dconstruct. The local jeweller – whose shop is now located at The Forks Market – was given offcut pieces of alabaster and basalt rock from the Museum’s building materials to create works that are exclusive to the Boutique.
The world’s game
Outside of local works, the Boutique also features numerous works from Canadian and international producers, the vast majority of which are fair trade certified and ecologically sound.
One item you can’t miss are the soccer balls that are adorned with flags from the participants in the most recent FIFA Women’s World Cup. These FIFA performance balls are made by VOLO Athletics, a Vancouver-based company who produces their balls in Pakistan, where the majority of the world’s soccer balls come from.
Tergesen had first met VOLO’s president/founder, James Milligan, at a Fairtrade conference when his company was first called Social Conscience Company over seven years ago. The two have since developed a positive working relationship, with Tergesen helping implore VOLO to make balls that were licensed for Canada’s 150. Over time, Tergesen also learned about how VOLO has set up their fair trade manufacturing business in Pakistan, where workers – who previously made balls for other multinational manufacturers – earn wages that allow them to pay for their children’s education, dental needs and healthcare.
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It's #FairTrade Month in Canada! At the Boutique, we believe commerce is an important means by which to effect positive change in the world. We encourage our customers to partake in thoughtful consumption. This Fairtrade Month, we’re asking you to remember the connection we have to the people who make the things we love. __ C'est le mois du #CommerceÉquitable au Canada! À la Boutique, nous croyons que les activités commerciales sont un outil important pour apporter des changements constructifs dans le monde. Voilà pourquoi nous faisons la promotion d’une consommation réfléchie auprès de notre clientèle. En ce mois du commerce équitable, nous vous demandons de vous rappeler des liens que nous avons avec les personnes qui fabriquent les objets que nous aimons.
Using the ball as an example, Tergesen says one of the most surprising things about today’s consumer, particularly kids at the museum, is how educated they are on the subject of fair trade.
“I’ve had many questions from kids lately who ask me the really tough questions,” said Tergesen. “They’ll ask: where’s this soccer ball made? Is it good quality? Am I going to be happy with it? Is it ethical and fair trade? What does fair trade mean?”
“A lot of times these kids know a lot more about fair trade and ethical sourcing than their parents do,” she continued.
Tergesen concludes that this striving for conscious consumerism, and the knowledge that her staff gains from it, is the most rewarding part of the job.
She’s had multiple instances in the last five years where Boutique staff have gone on to become interpretative guides within the Museum, having become aware of how these items, and consumerism in general, are all part of the global human rights story.
Talk about an object lesson in human rights!
Stories are part of the purchase
The Boutique’s shelves also contain no shortage of literature detailing human rights issues and histories that are found within the Museum; plenty of toys – the purchase of which directly supports producers in developing countries; foodstuffs that are almost all fair trade certified; and all manner of stationary.
If you head to the Boutique’s online store you’ll find over 300 gifts, with descriptions that let you know why or how this object was chosen... with the added bonus of being open 24/7.
Remember this gem of a Boutique when you are in the mood for an ethical shopping experience.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights Boutique is open Monday to Sunday: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Wednesday: 10 a.m. - 9:30 p.m.