Canada is a nation that prides itself on ethnic tolerance and cultural diversity. With that comes the importance of educating and reminding people of, not only some of humanity’s greatest triumphs, but also some of its darkest atrocities. So with this noble goal in mind, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was established in Winnipeg in 2008 and opened six years later.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights opened in 2014 with the expressed purpose of teaching Canadians and people from around the world about the prevention of hate and oppression. On one hand, the museum serves as a kind of Hall of Fame for history’s greatest activists and defenders of truth and justice. On the other hand, it is something like a Hall of Shame for mankind’s most heinous acts of cruelty and barbarism.
Perhaps this striking duality was what the architect, Antoine Predock, had in mind when he designed the landmark building that houses this groundbreaking museum. An imposing monument of concrete, steel and glass, visitors can enter the ground floor from a series of ramps and vestibules, stretching out like octopus tentacles.
One side of the building, comprised of curving layers of dark glass, reminds the viewer of a thick arthropod shell, or possibly the helmet of Darth Vader. The other side of the structure looks like a hodge-podge of institutional concrete, a citadel of square edges and harsh corners. Finally, the building rises upward, spiraling into a tall, narrow tower, reaching up for the sky. This impressive spire, aptly called the Tower of Hope, can be seen amidst the Winnipeg skyline from almost anywhere in the city.
Inside the building, visitors can expect an emotional roller coaster of inspiring exhibitions and devastating history. Galleries showcase stories from Canadian history, much of which discusses the indigenous peoples of Canada, their origins, their near annihilation, and their current status. Other portions of the museum tell the story of race in America and the great achievements of the Civil Rights Movement. Another gallery is dedicated to commemorating the tragedy of the Holocaust and the Third Reich.
Stories of activism, protest and progress fill more galleries, and ultimately, the museum promises a hopeful future for the human race. But that promise is tied to the condition that we, as a species, never forget the mistakes of history, and that we remain forever vigilant in defending human rights against the pernicious threats of tyranny, racism, and intolerance. If you’re in the area, consider it your duty as a global citizen to pay this crucial museum a visit.
To learn more about museum hours, ticket prices, and currents exhibits, check the CMHR website.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia