Canadian Museum for Human Rights (Winnipeg)

I have been struggling on how to Blog about this museum since my visit four or five days ago. Nothing I wrote seemed to convey my lack of understanding of what has happened in the world, or express the extent of the brutality by some over others. Of course I have known of many of the atrocities, the genocide, and the absolute bloody mindedness of hate, ideology and fear. The history of human violence against those who are different goes back thousands of years. It is not a twentieth or twenty-first century phenomenon. So instead of focusing on the histories of inhumanity–I could never do it justice–my thoughts and writing are about the museum and my experience there.

The museum stands out in the Winnipeg city-scape. It is six stories tall and a spectacular, modern, architectural design. Its exterior of angles and geometric shapes will catch your eye and the modern, stark, but beautiful interior complements the perseverance of people in spite of the horrific history of human cruelty and viciousness.

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While there are artefacts and archival collections on display, it was the high-tech interaction that brought this history alive for me. From an iPod App self guided walking tour, numerous interactive exhibitions to a number of small theatres where you can sit and watch narratives of history unfolding, the experiences are sobering. It made the experience personal. I will let the accompanying photographs show some of the aspects of the museum.

I sat watched and listened to one exposé of the Holocaust, among others. There is a floor of the museum dedicated to this specific genocide. While I have read about and seen films of the Nazi atrocities this is the first time I have had a personal interaction with such barbarism. Taking photographs of a cap, an article of clothing, pages from a diary, or display photos, to me seemed an intrusion, almost demeaning the suffering these murdered victims and survivors experienced at the hands of Nazi ideology and the ignorance, hate, or apathy in other countries at that time–and unfortunately still pervades some societies. I have not visited the sites of the death camps in Europe and I’m not sure I could now.

If I have an issue about this museum it is not about what is on display, or how it is educating the community–children to adults. I observed that Australia and New Zealand don’t rate a mention–we are not that innocent, and why isn’t there a similar museum in Australia?

I walked away from this record of history asking why? Why do we hate difference? Those who see past the differences and embrace diversity and tolerance are heroes. Hopefully I am a wiser and more humble person–through spending a few hours in this special museum and the richness of history.

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