At the intersection of archives, human rights and museums: the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and its archives
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The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) and its archives occupy a distinct position at the intersection of two developments within the archival and museum professions: increasingly collaborative relationships among cultural heritage professionals and institutions and increasing efforts by archival professionals to support human rights. This thesis examines the distinct position of the CMHR’s archives at this intersection. This place could be especially fruitful because the CMHR is not a conventional collecting museum. It does not prioritize acquisition of artefacts. Instead, its exhibition program relies heavily on documentary archival materials reproduced or borrowed from other institutions. It thereby aims to be an action-oriented idea museum that spurs greater knowledge of and participation in human rights related activities. This idea museum, driven by archival resources, prompts thinking about the new, more central role its archives could now play as a different kind of archives for a different kind of museum. The thesis considers this role by examining the increasingly collaborative relationship between the archival and museum professions, in the context of recent broader discussion of the blurring of the traditional distinct roles of librarians, museum and gallery curators, and archivists. As the archival basis of the museum’s work indicates, archives can play distinct substantive roles in such collaborations. As further evidence of that claim, the thesis shows how archives support human rights protection and human rights related research. It concludes by maintaining how recognition of such important roles of archives would allow the CMHR’s archives to advance the museum’s mandate by becoming a national and international archival knowledge centre supporting human rights protection through archiving.
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