The Canadian Museum for Human Rights will open its doors to the public on Sept. 20, 2014, its president and CEO says.
"A national project of this scope and scale comes along just once in a generation," Stuart Murray said of the $350-million project. "When the doors of this building open next September, it will be a historic moment for Canada and a proud day for Manitoba, as we welcome visitors from across the country and around the world."
Officials from tourism and business sectors said in a press release issued by the museum today that the CMHR’s opening will spark a new chapter in Canadian human rights history and provide a sustained boost to the local economy.
An estimated 250,000 people are expected to visit the museum each year. Economic Development Winnipeg has projected the annual gross economic impact at $159 million, with estimated annual direct expenditures of $79 million.
"The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is putting Winnipeg and Canada on the map as a destination for human rights scholarship and tourism," said Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) senior vice president of marketing Greg Klassen. "People are more aware of human rights issues than ever before, which opens exciting new tourism markets for travellers who want unique experiences that will move and inspire them."
The CMHR was the dream of Canwest founder Izzy Asper, who launched it as a private initiative in April 2003. Four years later, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the federal government’s intention to make it a national museum — the first outside the national capital region.
Museum staff say the institution is already receiving considerable interest as a venue for national and international conference events. Every week, it receives 10 to 15 new inquiries about spaces for receptions, weddings, conventions and corporate events. The Museum will begin accepting bookings this month.
Construction of the museum’s interior is nearing completion. Installation of museum exhibits has already begun and will continue through the winter and spring.
CMHR staff and contractors are busy finishing exhibits, educational programs and public tours which will tell hundreds of stories using immersive multi-media technology and other innovative approaches, creating an inspiring human rights journey unlike anything visitors will ever have experienced before.
Local community organizations, businesses, schools and individual citizens will be invited to be part of a team of more than 200 volunteers that will be needed to welcome visitors to Winnipeg as part of inaugural-year activities.
Museum admission fees and membership details will be set early in the new year, after research and focus testing is complete.
Inaugural-year programs and celebrations will be family-friendly, and most will be free. Details of inaugural-year events will be announced throughout the first half of 2014.
Local businesses and tourism organizations are already preparing for opening-year visitors. The museum is collaborating with tourism partners at the local, provincial and national level to promote Winnipeg as an exciting travel destination for visitors from around the world.
More than 80 per cent of conventions confirmed to Winnipeg have expressed interest in using the Canadian Museum for Human Rights as either an off-site venue, for delegate tours or as part of a delegate companion program.
Tourism Winnipeg spokeswoman Chantal Sturk-Nadeau said future conventions have been booked in Winnipeg because of the museum, while tour operators and independent travellers are waiting to add the CMHR to their leisure and group travel plans.
"Winnipeg is undergoing an exciting renaissance thanks to the opening of CMHR, a world-class polar bear exhibit being built at Assiniboine Park, the return of professional hockey, a brand new airport and many other exciting developments," she said. "This creates a tremendous opportunity to package Winnipeg as a distinct travel destination in ways that were not possible before."
Confirmation of the museum’s opening date sets planning in motion for an inaugural year of celebratory events, expected to attract interest from across the country and require help from more than 200 volunteers, officials say.
Gail Asper, national campaign chair for Friends of the CMHR, said it is exciting to see the vision of her father coming to life. "Opening the museum doors is not an end, but a beginning," Asper said in a statement. "With the help of more than 7,000 donors who believe in the power of human rights, we have been able to set the dream in motion. However, there is still much work to be done to ensure this inspiring project lives up to the potential we all envision, helping our children and grandchildren become educated and aware of the value of taking action for human rights in Canada and around the world."