Winnipeg/Museum for Human Rights

The newest architectural gem on Winnipeg’s landscape is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights built for the handsome sum of $351 million dollars.

Located at the start of The Forks (a 6,000-year-old Native American meeting place and crossroads), the imposing 24,300 square meter structure is the result of an international design competition.

Winnipeg/Museum for Human Rights

Carved into the earth and dissolving into the sky on the Winnipeg horizon, the abstract ephemeral wings of a white dove embrace a mythic stone mountain of 450 million year old Tyndall limestone in the creation of a unifying and timeless landmark for all nations and cultures of the world.

The floors and walls contain tiny cracks, meant to resemble Red river mud and clay. You begin the journey in the dark and wind your way to the 100-meter-high Israel Asper Tower of Hope high above where there’s nothing BUT light. The building’s exterior also offers changing perspectives depending on where you stand.

Winnipeg/Museum for Human Rights Winnipeg/Museum for Human Rights

Dark alabaster walls are used to symbolize the struggle for human rights. A series of gradually inclining ramps eventually exposure more light, culminating with a view of the city. This unique design emulates obstacles encountered in the advance of human rights. I noticed a lot of places to sit and reflect on the stories and moments portrayed throughout the museum.  

The numerous angles and leaning walls at every turn are designed to signify struggle. Light peaks through depending on the time of the day, season or weather.

Winnipeg/Museum for Human Rights

On the main floor is a very dark, bare room that greets visitors in 36 languages (all spoken in Canada) plus English and French. 12 of the 36 are Indigenous languages. 

Over 400,000 artifacts (some dating to 1100 A.D.) were unearthed at this museum’s site during a pre-construction archeological dig. The museum aims to respect the ground as a peaceful place for gatherings in The Forks’ tradition, even though controversy exists due to the fact that it’s located on an Aboriginal burial ground.

Winnipeg/Museum for Human Rights

It’s Canada’s first national museum built post-1967. Entrepreneur and philanthropist Israel “Izzy” Asper envisioned a human rights museum in Winnipeg. All three levels of government embraced the idea along with thousands of private donors.

Winnipeg/Museum for Human Rights

Winner and Albuquerque Post-Modern architect Antoine Predock included many Canadian elements in his design: ice, snow, mountains and Native prairie grass.

The windows reflect Winnipeg’s sky and allow natural light to pour in. The other side of the building represents a mountain. Although no mountains exist here in Winnipeg, this part of the structure “protects” the exhibitions. 

Winnipeg/Museum for Human Rights

I took the 90-minute informative Explore the Galleries group tour, perfect for getting acquainted with both the building’s interior as well as its stunning, thought-provoking collection of 11 galleries. 

Winnipeg/Museum for Human Rights

You’ll gain an appreciation for the human rights movements around the world, some of the most introspective (and darkest) moments in history as well as the struggles we’ve overcome in society.

There’s a lot to process and a visit can take anywhere from two hours to the entire day. Moreover, the CMHR invites visitors to continue the conversation by electronically adding your personal human rights story and engaging in several interactive displays. 

Winnipeg/Museum for Human Rights

The CMHR is just over a year old (opened in September 2014) and saw 140,000 visitors during its first tourist summer season. 

Many of the galleries can be explored through technology. In fact, this museum has won several awards for its technological advancements and most of the exhibits are both sight and hearing accessible.

Winnipeg/Museum for Human Rights

Just about every facet of the museum has been carefully orchestrated for ease of use combined with intelligent design elements. It’s a national treasure that everyone should take the time to visit when in Winnipeg. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is located at 85 Israel Asper Way.

Crossing the bridge onto Rue Provencher Boulevard and into Winnipeg’s French quarter offers yet another unique museum perspective on the city landscape. 

Winnipeg/Promenade Cafe and Wine

If you’re out for a walk to admire the Saint-Boniface Cathedral, Promenade Cafe and Wine serves up a delightful and pretty filling petit déjeuner along with atmospheric French tunes in a rustic setting. Find them at 130C Provencher Boulevard and grab a window table for a view of the magnificent Canadian Museum for Human Rights complemented by the sleek, white Provencher Bridge.

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