institution: Canadian Museum for Human Rights
category: Exhibition and Collection Extension
Background: Reconciliation and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights
In December 2015, Canada received a historic final report from The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Canadians across the country are now having important discussions about the devastating effects of residential schools and ways to move towards reconciliation.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) has an important role to play in examining the injustices that resulted from the Indian residential school system and in exploring the spirit and intent of reconciliation. As the commissioners stated in their summary report, “Through their exhibits, education outreach, and research programs, all museums are well positioned to contribute to education for reconciliation.”
At the CMHR, the history and legacy of residential schools is a theme woven throughout several different exhibits, an important part of its content related to Indigenous rights. Moving first-person testimony from residential school survivors is found in the Museum’s “Canadian Journeys” and “Breaking the Silence” galleries.
Primary-source evidence from Indian residential schools examines the historic context, the violations, the attempts to deny the harm done, and efforts to break the silence. These exhibitions examine the history of residential schools but also the ongoing, intergenerational impacts that remain to this day. In presenting this evidence, the CMHR invites visitors into a conversation about genocide in relation to residential schools and colonization.
References to the legacy of residential schools can also be found in a number of the museum’s exhibits. The CMHR houses an exhibit about the work of the TRC, which is found in the Inspiring Change gallery on Level 7. This exhibit featured the Bentwood Box until February 2017. The Bentwood Box has been returned to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
About the Bentwood Box
The Bentwood Box, carved from a single piece of cedar by Coast Salish artist Luke Marston, was a centrepiece for much of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee proceedings, receiving diverse offerings from participants. The box itself is intricately carved, and each carving has deep meanings. The placement of the Bentwood Box within a case meant intimate access to the carvings and their significance was difficult to facilitate. It also meant anyone with a sight impairment would have even greater difficulty learning about this important artefact. The CMHR mobile app allows visitors to examine the carvings of the Box in detail and, whether seen or read aloud through text-to-speech (TTS), ensures unparalleled, inclusive access.
By creating a 360°, high-resolution image based digital artefact of the Bentwood Box, the reach of this important content was extended to remote audiences, but just as importantly, this project facilitated in-gallery examination of the carvings of the box in greater detail than would otherwise be possible through the glass of an artefact case, or for visitors with low vision or who are blind.
The Bentwood Box interactive can be launched through the CMHR’s Journey of Inspiration mobile app available on iOS and Android. The mobile app was developed by Tristan Interactive, and was developed to allow CMHR to develop discreet web applications that could be delivered within the framework.
Visitors can download the app or receive a free iPod rental with the app preloaded. Users can launch the digital artefact through three methods:
- Navigating to the Level 7 section on the app as part of the self-guided tour
- Keying in the 3-digit Universal Access Point (UAP) code #703 located on the display case
- Using the “Near Me” mode that leverages iBeacon technology to detect visitors’ physical proximity to the case, which is very useful for accessibility through VoiceOver or text-to-speech
Once inside the app, visitors can explore the carvings in greater detail. Features include:
- Full rotation of the artefact through gesture or left/right buttons
- Move/Pan button
- Rotate button
- Pinch to zoom
When rotating the artefact, hotspots are revealed that provide further information on the significance of the symbols of the carvings. Selecting individual hotspots also provides a high-resolution image that allows pinch to zoom to view physical details.
Expansion of Dialogue
The Bentwood Box is the first digital artefact created and presented within the CMHR mobile app. While currently only available through the app, an online version accessible through the website is in development. The CMHR will be able accommodate and expand this program as further collections are digitized. The continues the CMHR’s strategic use of digital experience, as a means of providing in-gallery and remote audience access on unprecedented scales.
It is hoped that this approach will continue to foster conversations within and between audiences about reconciliation, contributing to ongoing discussion about human rights.
To read more about reconciliation:
The Journey of Inspiration app is available on iOS and Android: