December 13, 2019

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Public questions aired at forum

Issue of Holodomor, museum land's archeological study raised

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/12/2011 (2928 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A strong showing of citizens listens at Tuesday's first CMHR public meeting.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A strong showing of citizens listens at Tuesday's first CMHR public meeting.

NO one said starting a museum from scratch about a sensitive subject, using evolving technology in a shaky economy, would be easy or come without a few questions raised.

On Tuesday, at the first public meeting hosted by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, people wanted to know everything from how museum planners are dealing with controversy and finances to the very ground the unique structure is built on.

The museum, not expected to open now until 2014, held the public meeting in the Manitoba Museum.

"How did you address concerns raised by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress... about too much concentration in the Holocaust as opposed to other tragedies?" asked Ostap Hawaleshka, a retired university professor.

"Do we have a definitive business plan for sustainability in the long term?" asked Derek Dabee, a school trustee and member of the Indo-Caribbean community.

"Will there be any on-site human interaction?" asked Brian Richardson, wanting to know if there'd be live theatre as part of the exhibits.

Representatives of the CMHR offered some responses in the short time allotted for questions and answers.

Museum CEO Stuart Murray said they have plans for live, interactive exhibits. He conjured up an example — an actor portraying Louis Riel giving his last speech in a Regina courtroom before he was hanged.

At times, emotions ran high and voices were raised. A woman was upset the museum would use the Holocaust as a lens through which to view human rights atrocities. A man vented his frustration that reports on an archeological study conducted at the site, a historical meeting place, haven't been made public. Museum spokeswoman Angela Cassie told him they're waiting for more reports before making the information available to the public.

"We've worked with the Manitoba Heritage resource branch to honour legislative requirements," she said.

Some members of the public still had nagging questions after the meeting.

"Fifteen minutes is not enough," Dabee said following the short Q & A session that followed a nearly two-hour museum presentation.

"There really weren't answers," said Dabee. "We can't figure out financially how it's going to work."

He said he supports the museum but wants to know how it's going to survive financially.

Murray said Ottawa will provide $21.7 million a year in operating funds with "additional revenue" from the museum, online sales and retail.

The museum saved $2.5 million last year by hiring 17 people instead of the planned 35, Murray said. It cut its travel budget by $400,000 by teleconferencing instead of travelling, he noted.

Following the meeting, Hawaleshka, who used to teach at the University of Manitoba, said he still isn't sure the Holodomor, the Ukrainian famine, will have a permanent presence in the museum.

But Murray said the museum has been working with the Ukrainian community and a Holodomor museum in Kyiv to exchange artifacts as part of a temporary exhibit.

The professor emeritus said he doesn't want people getting hung up on whose genocide deserves the most space.

The new museum in Winnipeg is using evolving technology and social media to bring exhibits to life, a shift from the norm and a different way to share experiences, he said.

"We have to rearrange our thinking of a permanent exhibit," Hawaleshka said.

Corey Timpson, the museum's director of design and new media, said they really are starting from scratch.

"There's not a museum like this," he said after the meeting. They're making sure that content can be used on several platforms — from in person at the museum to online and for people using tablets and adaptive technologies, for example.

Over and above meeting universal design codes, the museum wants to make sure the exhibits and contents are inclusive, Timpson said. The museum has an inclusive design committee.

 

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Reporter

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

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