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Winnipeg Sun | 04Mar2013 | Joyanne Pursaga

Plans for human rights museum galleries revealed

[W.Z.  To summarize this 92-page CMHR report: Holocaust gets 4,500 sq.ft; Aboriginal Canadians get 2,700 sq.ft; Holodomor gets a footnote; Israel Asper gets a monument for his life of hypocrisy, deceit and greed; Stephen Harper gets contempt.]

As details emerge of the galleries planned for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, critics are railing against what’s not included.

A 92-page report written by museum officials reveals detailed plans for various exhibits to be displayed at the Winnipeg-based federal building when it opens. The new details, though, didn’t do anything to quell criticism from various ethnic groups who believe their cultural atrocity is being given short shrift.

Lubomyr Luciuk, of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said Holodomor, the man-made famine that killed millions of Ukrainians in the 1930s, is barely a footnote in the museum while 4,500-sq.-ft. of space is set aside to examine the holocaust.

“To think that one of the worst crimes against humanity will be put on a light table that may be seldom used is frankly insulting,” said Luciuk, of the atrocity’s inclusion in a genocide-themed display.

Luciuk said the museum -- a $357.5-million capital project that depends on at least $156 million from city, provincial and federal governments combined -- isn’t what Canadians wanted it to be.

“It clearly goes against the thrust of what the Canadian public asked for. They didn’t accept the idea of not elevating any one aspect or any one group,” said Luciuk.

Museum spokeswoman Maureen Fitzhenry said Holodomor will be noted in the museum through a film, testimony from individuals affected and a look at the regime that caused it, all within the Breaking the Silence genocide gallery.

“It shouldn’t be looked at as a square footage battle here,” said Fitzhenry.

The Palestinian community has also argued its story will be excluded, but Fitzhenry said the museum may feature a human rights art project that links kids in Canada, Palestine and Israel.

The Examining the Holocaust gallery is critical to the museum’s mandate, said Fitzhenry.

“The inclusion of a standalone holocaust gallery is a defining feature of the museum,” she said.

Even critics agree some galleries reflect public sentiment on what should be featured in the museum.

Luciuk said the 2,700-square-foot Aboriginal Peoples in Canada gallery is essential to exploring Canada’s human rights history. It will feature a basket-shaped theatre with wrap-around video, at times replaced by live dance or storytelling, while another museum space will be devoted to residential schools.

A 9,500-sq.-ft. Canada’s Journey gallery will showcase 74 different stories in a two-storey space.

The museum also features high-tech elements, including a human rights timeline video set to start when a visitor approaches it and an interactive floor game, which displays how visitors’ action affect others.

A glimpse of gallery highlights planned for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights:

Introductory gallery:

— Video displayed on open-sided theatre with ceiling-to-floor screen, concealed objects light up at key moments.

— Human rights timeline video triggered when a visitor approaches.

Aboriginal Peoples in Canada gallery:

— Basket-shaped theatre with wrap-around video, at times replaced by dance or storytelling.

Canada’s Journey:

— Interactive floor game tracks motion and uses coloured light projections to display how visitor actions affect each other.

— Digital canvas displays large projection, which may create scenery for theatre, with three performance stages hidden in a wall.

— Winnipeg General Strike exhibit offers 3D, touchable “map” spread across back wall with projection.

— Same-sex marriage exhibit shows large tower of couples’ photos in oversized, tiered wedding cake, where photos switch to text periodically.

— Living tree gallery wall of projected “branches” swaying and morphing into tree made of words related to Canada’s laws.

Examining the Holocaust:

— Trapezoidal, 29-seat theatre with walls to resemble broken glass “stitched together” with metal staples and an open top.

— Four touch-screen monitors revealing techniques Nazis used to destroy Jewish people.

The Forum:

— Interactive bullying prevention game designed for 15 to 20 players on touchable table.

— Platform exhibit features musical element of human rights movements, with wall display and potential for live performances.