New Article: “‘An Amazing Gift’? Memory entrepreneurship, settler colonialism and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights”

Drs. Angela Failler (University of Winnipeg) and Amber Dean (McMaster University) have recently published an article titled “‘An Amazing Gift’? Memory entrepreneurship, settler colonialism and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights” in the academic journal Memory Studies.

This article considers the role of memory entrepreneurship in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights’s historic launch and in a sampling of its content, social media posts, points of sale and marketing campaigns. Here is the abstract:

Drawing on research undertaken at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, this article considers the role of memory entrepreneurship in the museum’s historic launch and in a sampling of its content, social media posts, points of sale and marketing campaigns. These examples are read in tension with Roger I. Simon’s conceptualization of ‘the terrible gift’ of what we come to know belatedly about events of mass violence, which calls into question the consolatory promises of learning from ‘those who came before us’ and the ‘lessons of their lives’. The museum’s involvement in the City of Winnipeg’s tourism initiatives and the revitalization of Winnipeg’s downtown are also considered, and we suggest that the museum’s participation in the creative economy might affect its tendency to situate human rights violations primarily in the past. Critiques of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights’ present occupation of Indigenous land and the museum (and City of Winnipeg)’s ongoing reliance on natural resources extracted at the expense of Indigenous communities remain as difficult or inassimilable knowledge. Juxtaposing Indigenous, cultural and economic critiques with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights’ advancement of memory entrepreneurship, our article explores the inter-implication of consumer culture, capitalism, settler colonialism and the museum’s ability to contribute to societal change. We conclude by turning to the activism of members of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, arguing that their calls for access to safe water and an all-season road in and out of their community pose both an economic and a political challenge to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and its brand of memory entrepreneurship by insisting that gestures to include and proffer representational forms of recognition to Indigenous peoples must simultaneously attend to sovereigntist calls for redistribution of land and resources in order to meaningfully address the historical and ongoing injustices of settler colonialism.

To access the full article, click here.


Review: In a Kraków Basement, Awkward Objects of Genocide

Thinking through the Museum team member Dr. Erica Lehrer’s recently co-curated exhibit, “Terribly Close: Polish Vernacular Artists Face the Holocaust,” was reviewed by Adam Schorin in Forward. The review, titled “In a Kraków Basement, Awkward Objects of Genocide,” describes the exhibit as “extraordinary and unnerving.”

The full review can be read here:

In lieu of an abstract, here is an excerpt from the review:

At the entrance to the temporary exhibition in Esterka’s House, a branch of the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków, there is a photograph of the collections storage of the Warsaw State Ethnographic Museum. The photograph shows rows of densely populated shelves: in the space of just a few cubic meters, hundreds of hand-carved figurines are consorting. There are peasants and priests, farmers and nuns, Adam and Eve and la pieta. And in the center of one row in the back, half-hidden by pastoral and religious scenes, is a triptych of the Holocaust: a soldier shoots a woman and her child, corpses are loaded into ovens, a group of Jews is led away by smiling policemen.

This is how we arrive at “Terribly Close: Polish Vernacular Artists Face the Holocaust.”


Spring breakers import Cuban rum, cigars and racist curios – Dr. Monica Patterson

In a recent op-ed posted on the website The Conversation, TTTM team member Dr. Monica Patterson wrote about racist curios and memorabilia:

“This spring break, thousands of Canadian college and university students will head south to Cuba. They are among the more than one million Canadians who will flock to Cuba this winter to relax on the white sandy beaches of the affordable Caribbean island. 

While soaking up the sunshine, most of these tourists will also shop for the nation’s trademark rum, cigars and other souvenirs that will remind them of their Cuban experience for years to come. Undoubtedly, some of the Cuban curios they purchase will be gifted to friends and family members.

But if you are one of those millions bringing a souvenir home, think twice before filling your suitcase with mementos from the island…”

For the full article, see The Conversation’s website here.

To hear Monica Patterson speaking about the issue, listen to her interview on the Rick Gibbons 1310 news radio show (1:40-9:08).


Dr. Erica Lehrer Interviewed for New Books Network

In response to her book Jewish Poland Revisited: Heritage Tourism in Unquiet Places (Indiana University Press, 2013), Dr. Erica Lehrer was interviewed for a podcast for the New Books Network.

The interview can be accessed here.


Dr. Failler Publishes Article on CMHR’s Canada 150 Exhibitions

In response to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights’s Canada 150 exhibitions, TTTM team leader Angela Failler has written an article in Citizenship Studies.

Here is the abstract:

This paper features an analysis of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) and its showcase for ‘Canada 150’, the sesquicentennial anniversary of Canadian Confederation. Particular attention is paid to how the Museum frames national memory, and its responsiveness (or lack thereof) to critiques and re-framings of Canada 150 by Indigenous artists, activists, historians and community leaders. Since opening to the public in 2014, the CMHR has had a mixed reception, including criticism for inadequately addressing Canada’s colonial past and present, privileging narratives of state benevolence and downplaying ‘missteps’ when it comes to Canada’s own human rights and Indigenous rights record. Recognizing that national museums have long served the colonial project of state formation and official memory, this paper nonetheless tries to notice potential openings for decolonizing or unsettling Canada 150 at the CMHR. Shoal Lake 40 First Nation’s Museum of Canadian Human Rights Violations is taken up as a counter example.

50 free copies are available here (while copies last).


An Inuk’s thoughts on the Native American Art Studies Association 2017 Conference

NAASA Newsletter Image for the Annual Meeting

By Jade Nasogaluak Carpenter*

I was invited to attend the Native American Art Studies Association conference  in the fall of 2017 to talk with folks on a session titled “Thinking through the Museum: Decolonizing and Indigenizing Arts Institutions in Canada” with Alexandra Kahsenniio Nahwegahbow, Amy Prouty, and Heather Igloliorte, who was also facilitating the discussion.

Our panel consisted of emerging arts professionals with undergraduate and graduate degrees, so I felt very thankful that Heather Igloliorte, TTTM Co-Investigator, chaired our panel and was facilitating the discussion. Her vast knowledge was incredibly important, helpful, and super informative. Her presence also helped me to not feel as lost, since I am still green when it comes to presenting and talking to folks in a conference type setting.


This was my first NAASA, and my first time visiting the States, so I was understandably overwhelmed with all the information I was able to absorb. There were so many lovely people who made me feel comfortable despite the fact that many NAASA goers have been attending for years and seemed to split their conference time up to be able to catch-up with old friends. I find that it is very difficult to enter these spaces as a young Inuk who often feels not educated enough and a generally underwhelming presence in academic settings.

In preparing for the talk, I went into it without looking up my fellow speakers and only using Heather’s write up as a guide; it may have been a rookie mistake but I wanted the discussion to be more informal, less practiced, more relaxed, and easily accessible while ensuring that I was not too intimidated by my amazing co-presenters to speak. Alexandra blew me away with her curatorial practice, her knowledge, and her words about community. From my recollection, she spoke about “making your world smaller” to better your chances at having a more impactful change in the community. I find that sentiment to be an amazing tactic to attempt to decolonize your world (baby steps, right?). Amy’s vast knowledge on Inuit art is incredibly admirable and inspiring, and––not to sound too cheesy––but her work gives me hope in the sense that our stories and our art will continue have space in the academy.

I spoke about my relatively new role at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity as a program participant in the Indigenous Curatorial Research Practicum. I am honoured to be able to participate in this program at the Centre as I feel that the centre is an amazing hub for Indigenous artist and curators, and to immerse myself in this setting is quite amazing. I believe during the panel I joked about how I am unsure how I made it to Banff, not having curated anything as of yet, but I feel that knowing that information makes me even more appreciative of the program. I spoke as well about some of the shortcomings of the Banff Centre that I have observed, as they work towards the admirable goal of “Indigenizing”, making an  analogy during the panel that they are building stairs but forgot a few steps. By that, I mean I believe Banff Centre is trying to work towards decolonization and reconciliation, but I have been getting the sense that they don’t yet have certain groundwork in place, even  while trying to implement huge changes from above (i.e., creating Indigenous specific practicums without having Indigenous mentors in place to guide those practicums). Just with speaking to a few key people at the Centre though, I am confident that they are working to make Indigenous practicums feel more supported than they currently  are, and I have observed some steps in the right direction

After the talk I felt that the audience had very thoughtful questions and they seemed eager to hear from “the millennials”, or the emerging curators/arts professionals. An audience member had asked if we knew of any institutions that are getting “reconciliation” right, and I suggested the Winnipeg Art Gallery, especially in light of the soon to come Inuit Art Centre. We also discussed the role of artist run centres in Canada, and their importance in making small  but meaningful changes within communities.

The thing that stuck with me the most is the care and support that Indigenous women have the capacity for. Mentorship from Indigenous women has been such a blessing in my life and I feel that the only way to tear down these institutions and break the glass/moose hide ceiling is by lifting each other up and supporting one another; I am very thankful to have the support of these women in my life and I hope to one day be just as supportive and inspirational.


Jade Nasogaluak Carpenter

*Jade Nasogaluak Carpenter is an Inuvialuk artist and curator based in Calgary/Banff and she currently holds the Indigenous Curatorial Research Practicum at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. She uses art and humour as a coping mechanism to address cultural displacement and mental illness; the lighthearted nature of her practice extends gestures of empathy and solidarity.


Dr. Angela Failler Reflects on 2014 Marsha Hanen Global Dialogue & Ethics Award

The Marsha Hanen Global Dialogue and Ethics Award at the University of Winnipeg was established in 2007 with a generous donation from former University of Winnipeg President Dr. Marsha Hanen, C.M.  Dr. Hanen’s gift supports interdisciplinary research and dialogue. The Global Dialogue and Ethics Program promotes the open expression and dissemination of ideas and respectful discussion, by supporting U of W faculty-initiated research and providing an interdisciplinary forum for research and dialogue on topics that include an ethical dimension.

Winner of the 2014 Award, Dr. Angela Failler was asked to reflect on how the award supported her research projects, and specifically how it served as the foundation for a workshop she held called Caring for Difficult Knowledge: The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Focus. This workshop then served as the foundation for the larger Thinking through the Museum project and its successful Partnership Development Grant application in 2015.

Check out the full feature on UWinnipeg’s website here.


Dr. Heather Igloliorte wins CAA Art Journal Award

Thinking through the Museum congratulates team member Heather Igloliorte for her recent Art Journal Award! This Award, given based on Igloliorte’s article ““Curating Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit: Inuit Knowledge in the Qallunaat Art Museum,” in the Summer 2017 issue of Art Journal, was given out as a part of the College Art Association’s (CAA) Annual Meeting in Los Angeles in February 2018.


Dr. Lehrer publishes review: “Making #Heritage Great Again”

In response to the exhibition #Heritage at the National Museum in Kraków, Poland, Dr. Erica Lehrer has published a long-form review titled “Making #Heritage Great Again.” The review reads the show critically as the newest volley in a national culture war in the context of Poland’s recent hard rightward turn.

(photo credit: Erica Lehrer)

The review is free to read in the online journal Political Critique, the international arm of Central and Eastern Europe’s largest liberal network of institutions and activists.

Here is a short excerpt:
The #Heritage (#Dziedzictwo) exhibition at Krakow’s National Museum is imposing, grand, and low-tech. It is an old-school, collection-based exhibition that exemplifies a traditional form of museological deceit, where profoundly political work is disguised as objectivity and benevolent custodianship. But #Heritage is novel because it co-opts not only the seeming neutrality of the original museum-as-treasure-box, but also the trappings of more recent, democratic approaches to curating, all while neutralizing true civic debate.”
To read the rest of the review, click here.

Dr. Failler Awarded CFI Grant for CRiCS

Dr. Angela Failler has received a Joh R. Evans Leader’s Fund grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) with contributions from Research Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg to establish a new Centre for Research in Cultural Studies (CRiCS) on the UWinnipeg campus.  CRiCS will house the innovative projects of Failler (who is Canada Research Chair in Culture and Public Memory), and the work of UWinnipeg’s Cultural Studies Research Group which she currently leads.

Failler’s overall program is designed to demonstrate the ways public memory and cultural studies research can generate positive social transformation. The main feature of the centre will be a Collaborative Research and Knowledge Mobilization Lab that functions as a multipurpose hub for research creation, networking, and workshopping. This Centre will also be a hub of activity toward Failler’s work with the Thinking through the Museum research team and its projects.

For more information, please see the press release on the University of Winnipeg’s website here.