Catalysts for Change: Human Rights Education in Museums

December 20, 2017

Since the early 2000s, museum and human rights professionals have increasingly used museums to explore human rights education. Nearly 20 years later, we reflect on how it’s going. Are museums simply a platform for human rights learning? Do museums offer unique advantages in facilitating dialogue and building empathy? How can we balance the discourse, which currently favors traditional “western” concepts of human rights?

In December 2017, New Knowledge Researcher Dr. Rebecca Joy Norlander led a workshop entitled Museums: A Space for Human Rights Education in Action at the 8th annual International Conference on Human Rights Education, in Montreal. The conference attracted a diverse audience, with attendees coming from over 50 countries.

Along with colleagues from the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, University of Connecticut, National Museum of the American Indian, and the University of Minnesota, Norlander introduced participants to stories of practice and impact. The workshop focused on specific examples of how museums can be catalysts for change through the use of Human Rights Education (HRE). During an Interactive Multi-logue, presenters and participants collaboratively created compelling questions based on encounters with a primary source stories, artifacts, and images. Presenters then led a structured discussion designed to model decolonizing methods. Workshop attendees envisioned how they would apply their understanding of human rights education with their own audiences by developing Action Plans.

Have you used human rights education with your audiences? Do other types of organizations offer inspiration for advancing this work? We are thrilled to be part of this conversation, as NewKnowledge continues to study how we can build a more just and peaceful society where all people can live to their potential.

Photo (left to right): Kristi Rudelius-Palmer, Glenn Mitoma, Carolyn Rapkievian, Rebecca Norlander, and Mireille Lamontagne