Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor
WINNIPEG, MANITOBA — Architect Antoine Predock calls the opportunity to build the world’s most impressive human rights museum a “no-brainier.”
Predock’s vision, though, promises to put minds to the test, challenging perceptions and fostering a level of interaction with the troubling issues of the past and present.
On Tuesday night, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights — Predock’s master work — gave travel journalists from around the world a sneak peek of the first national museum to open since 1967 and the only one that resides outside of the Ottawa region.
The 260,00-square-foot facility opens on September 20 with an invite-only gala. A week of special visits will follow before the general public can enter on September 27. Adult tickets will cost $15 each.
Despite the limited access and limited content, the night at the museum was a dramatic event for the media, who were invited to the Manitoba capital by the Canadian Tourism Commission for its annual Go Media conference, a gathering of the nation’s tourism industry and the media who they hope will provide coverage of destinations, properties and experiences.
One highlight of the 2014 conference is the preview of Predock’s opus. Although he wasn’t physically present, Predock appeared on Tuesday night thanks to a video produced by the CTC that featured the architect discussing his vision for the incredible building. Predock noted that he was inspired by Israel Asper and the original idea for the CMHR. Asper, the late newspaper owner, wanted to build a significant facility to honour and remember victims of atrocities as well as educate the public to prevent future crimes against humanity.
The museum might seem dour in tone but the building is so stunning that it actually makes you feel uplifted. Light floods in from a massive bank of windows, the dark mud-coloured floors on the first level leads to a black ramp that turns into a beautiful white alabaster staircase that ribbons its way up the museum. At the apex is the Tower of Hope that allows visitors to peer down the length of the building. The tower was not open for viewing on Tuesday.
Master exhibit designer Ralph Appelbaum called the museum a “courageous idea” and “the mothership for human rights.”
“Embedded is a whole set of digital tools that will allow us to use social media to push out information to the rest of the world. If you look at the past 30 days, the relevance of the museum becomes more and more apparent,” said Appelbaum, referencing the unrest taking place in Ferguson, Missouri as he spoke to the media on Tuesday. “I grew up with this idea that Canada had a special place in the world with meeting its challenges, and overcoming them and talking about them.”
The gathering featured a dinner reception and tours of the museum in its current state. The exhibit items on display included a ballot box from the 1994 election that saw Nelson Mandela take over the political leadership of South Africa.
“I’m a proud Manitoban,” said travel journalist Mark Sissons, who was raised in the Winnipeg area and now lives in Vancouver. Sissons was one of five travel journalists who participated in a Google Hangout on Air that featured their commentary about the museum. “I’m very excited for Winnipeg. It’s a great, great museum.”
MORE ABOUT THE CANADIAN MUSEUM FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Address: 85 Israel Asper Way
Opening Date: Official opening is September 20, 2014; public entry begins to September 27.
Tickets: Adults $15