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September 18, 2018

CMHR hosts global conference of human rights museums

Delegates from human rights museums in 20 countries around the world will gather at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) in Winnipeg September 25 to 28 for a conference of the Federation of International Human Rights Museums (FIHRM) – the first time this annual event has been held in North America.

We are thrilled to welcome other museums that engage in human rights themes to share their strategies for confronting the challenges we all face,” said CMHR president and CEO John Young. He will deliver the welcome address with David Fleming of Liverpool, FIHRM founding president, and Danielle Kuijten of Amsterdam, vice president of the International Council of Museum’s Committee for Collecting (ICOM-COMCOL), which has combined its annual conference with this event.

The conference, co-hosted with the City of Human Rights Education (The CoHRE), will explore the increasingly dynamic role museums play by leveraging their “soft power” to promote human rights and democracy. Examples of session topics include: virtual visits and collections, repatriating cultural items to Indigenous Peoples, the debate over public memorials, presenting children’s perspectives, and new approaches to subjects such as global migration, anti-slavery and the Holocaust.

A diverse list of speakers will provide perspectives of museums in Norway, Canada, the United Kingdom, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Germany, Sweden, Nigeria, South Korea, The Netherlands, Italy, Japan, USA, Mexico, Taiwan and Argentina. Delegates will attend from such institutions as the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, the Osaka Human Rights Museum and the National Museum of Scotland. 

Gail Lord

Gail Dexter Lord, one of the world’s foremost museum, gallery and cultural planners, will present to the opening plenary session on September 26 about the complex transition of museums from colonial-era to human rights-era institutions. Christopher Till, director of South Africa’s Apartheid Museum – which collaborated with the CMHR on its current major exhibition Mandela: Struggle for Freedom – will give a plenary address on September 27 about efforts to present current issues with democracy in South Africa. The CMHR’s manager of research and curation, Dr. Jodi Giesbrecht, will speak on September 27 about ways to ensure curation processes are inclusive of stakeholder communities.

A full conference schedule with list of presenters and topics can be found online.

FIHRM was formed in 2010 under the coordination of the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool as a way for human rights museums to work together, learn from each other and explore ways to challenge racism, discrimination and other human rights violations. The organization encourages its members to challenge traditional museum thinking and practice and redefine the museum role in combatting human rights abuses.

COMCOL is an international committee of the International Council of Museums, which aims to deepen discussions and share knowledge of the practice, theory and ethics of collecting and collections – both tangible and intangible. It is devoted to fostering respectful practices that affect the role of collections today and in the future from all types of museums around the world.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) is the first museum in the world exclusively dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights as a concept and aspiration for all people. Using multimedia technology and other innovative approaches to storytelling, the CMHR creates inspiring encounters with human rights for all ages and abilities in a visitor experience unlike any other.