What you are going to see inside the CMHR. "Look on...and despair."
The museum's fundraising arm, the Friends of the CMHR, took detailed notes and reported Appelbaum's "thrilling" lecture in the group's Summer, 2012, newsletter.
Barf bags at the ready, here we go...
"Visitors enter ‘Buhler Hall’, a vast welcome and gathering space. High-contrast ambient projections against an earthen red wall welcome visitors in different languages. Part of the ceiling opens up into the heart of the Museum and offers a dazzling view of people crossing one of the ramps high above."
Like a scene from one of Cecil B. DeMille's biblical epics, or a trip back in time to the day of the Pharoahs, it will leave visitors wondering "how much did we spend on this?" and "Gosh, what we could have done with that money..."
Women's shelters beg for funding, the homeless beg for lodgings, the poorest are beggared by food costs, scientific studies are killed under the rubric of austerity, but governments of all stripes didn't stint on this fantastical monument to one man. It's Shelley's immortal poem Ozymandias brought to life.
But, let's continue the tour with the Friends...
"At the far end of the ‘Introduction’ gallery stands a basket-shaped theatre. Inside the theatre, a 360-degree film screen tells the story of Canada’s Indigenous peoples – and presents Indigenous concepts of humanity’s rights and responsibilities. visitors will “hear stories about community and co-existence, respect and modes of government... It serves as the prologue to the great story we are about to tell.”
"That great story is ‘Canada’s Human Rights Journey’, which occupies the Museum’s largest space. (It) begins with films that explore Canada’s human rights struggles and successes. The open, two-storey gallery features multi-layered, dynamic presentations of Canada’s human rights advances and setbacks, as well as our nation’s development of human rights laws and institutions. An interactive floor game will engage visitors of all ages in discovering how individual actions have an effect on others. An enormous canvas will provide a backdrop for digital projections, and three stages hidden in the wall will open to reveal performances by actors portraying figures and scenes from Canada’s human rights journey."
"The gallery also features storytelling alcoves: mini exhibits that bring to life the stories and experiences of Canada’s human rights pioneers and champions. Appelbaum says many of these heroes are relatively unknown. “This is a gallery devoted to remembering their names.” Visitors can even leave their own names and human rights stories behind in a recording booth, and watch recordings left behind by previous visitors."
(Are we bad people for wondering who will leave the first sex tape?)
“The walls are etched with images of genocide so we can better understand what genocide is....” Visitors will “see the world’s response to those tragic events through giant scrapbooks whose pages turn with a wave of your hand."
"The next gallery, ‘Hope and Hard Work’, presents and explains the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Here, visitors will use large interactive monitors to explore how the Declaration applies to real-world situations. Another exhibit will focus on John Humphreys, the Canadian who played a lead role in drafting the Declaration. Panels with images and texts will highlight some of the many other human rights instruments that followed the Declaration, and an animated overhead projection will depict the Declaration’s thirty clauses."
"...a network of translucent alabaster ramps will convey Museum visitors upwards into a modern-day view of human rights. ‘Human Rights Today’ features a spectacular world map that Appelbaum says “would make (CNN anchor) Wolf Blitzer jealous.” Visitors can interact with the map to find out what’s happening in human rights anywhere in the world in real time. The gallery will also lead visitors through exhibits that demonstrate how the media shapes perceptions of human rights abuses, and to an interactive “tapestry” of some of the people who defend human rights in their work every day."
"The final gallery, ‘Take Action’, invites visitors to make an active commitment to protecting human rights. Here, Museum facilitators will answer questions, engage visitors in discussions, and help visitors discover what actions they can take to promote the rights of everyone."
" The Museum experience culminates in a visit to the ‘Tower of Hope’, accessible via glass elevator or circular staircase. The Tower offers a magnificent view of Winnipeg and will house the story of the recipient of a newly-created human rights award. Here visitors can share their thoughts and receive a memento to remind them of their personal journey at the Museum."
The most stomach-turning example of how successful they have been is also in the Summer, 2012 issue of the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights newsletter.
There, on Page 10, is a picture of a smiling Gail Asper standing next to a little boy who is honoured as a "Human Rights Champion." The story reads:
“I asked my friends who were invited to my birthday party to donate to the Museum instead of getting birthday presents because I have had lots of birthdays with presents, and I already have lots of toys. So I decided to donate to the Museum because it needs the money more than I need more toys. I was proud to give the money that I raised to the Museum so that my friends and I can visit there some day. And my family still gave me some presents,” (he) says.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'