WINNIPEG — A $351 million tribute to promote human rights and equality will finally have its curtain pulled back today.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, funded by government support and sizable philanthropic donations, will initially have only four of its 11 galleries available for viewing until next week.
Museum spokesperson Angela Cassie says it’s a constant work in progress and exhibits will evolve over time to continually share the many stories of human rights with its visitors.
About 9,000 people have booked preview tours at the museum for Saturday and Sunday. Overwhelming demand for the tours crashed the museum’s website this month, resulting in a lottery-based system to be implemented.
“We really wanted to give people a sense to come in the building, experience the architecture, see the garden, and get a peek of what they’re going to see when we open our doors,” Cassie said.
While September 20 has long been promoted as the “official” opening, an advance media tour on Wednesday revealed there is still a lot of work to be completed. Construction crews at the time were still installing many components of the galleries, including wiring, lights, walls and aesthetic touches. Those members of the public who didn’t secure preview tickets will get a chance to see the museum in its entirety on September 27.
“For all of us, it’s a little bit surreal,” Cassie said of the pending opening. “The enthusiasm and the excitement that we’re hearing from other people is energizing. People have been working so hard, they’re so passionate and I think we realize what we have here… sometimes it’s like the kid before Christmas or the best surprise ever. It’s not an end, it’s a beginning and there’s so much we can do from here. We’ve just gotten started.”
For opening weekend, the first four galleries will examine what are human rights, indigenous perspectives, Canadian journeys, and protecting rights in Canada. Guests will be able to walk through the Garden of Contemplation with a view directly above of the Tower of Hope and the city’s skyline.
The museum has also reached out to groups planning to protest or boycott its opening. Officials have opened a dialogue with critics to hear their concerns and find out ways to address them in future exhibits as the CMHR evolves over time.
Besides the initial $100 million the federal government has already provided to fund the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, an additional $21.7 million will be committed annually by Ottawa for operating costs.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was rumoured to attend the opening this morning, but will be represented by MP Shelly Glover instead, citing schedule conflicts.
Renowned Québec singer and actor Ginette Reno will perform the national anthem at the opening ceremonies, which begin at 10:30 a.m CT. Events will be broadcast live on APTN and OMNI TV, or live at HumanRights.ca.
View the photo gallery below from inside the museum.