ACHS 2016: Thinking through the Museum Roundtable

ACHS Thinking through the Museum panel members.

ACHS Thinking through the Museum panel members. (L to R: Jennifer Robinson, Heather Igloliorte, Monica Patterson, Angela Failler, Erica Lehrer, Shelley Butler)

On Tuesday, June 7, 2016, Thinking through the Museum research team members Angela Failler, Heather Igloliorte, Erica Lehrer, and Monica Patterson were joined by colleagues Shelley Ruth Butler and Jennifer C. Robinson for a roundtable discussion at the Association of Critical Heritage Studies conference in Montreal, Québec, Canada.

The discussion focused on the conference’s theme and asked the question: what might the heritage of difficult knowledge change, if productively curated? Participants discussed topics including (but not limited to): slow museology and conflict; game methodologies to address victim competition; children and difficult knowledge; counter-museums and social justice, failed politics of recognition, museum leadership and structure, and indigenous curatorial practice and settler colonialism.

While the Canadian Museum of Human Rights was a central focus, particularly in relation to the Partnership Development Grant from SSHRC, participants also drew on their broad field of engagement, including museums in Poland, South Africa, northern Canada, the United States, and Germany.


Dr. Erica Lehrer awarded Insight Grant

POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews (photo credit: W. Kryński)

POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews (photo credit: W. Kryński)

Canadian Museum for Human Rights (photo credit: CMHR - MCDP flickr)

Canadian Museum for Human Rights (photo credit: CMHR – MCDP flickr)

Dr. Erica Lehrer has been awarded a SSHRC Insight Grant valued at $133,268 for a 4-year comparative project focusing on Poland and Canada entitled “Difficult Heritage in National Museums.” As Lehrer describes the project:

Major museums worldwide are increasingly billed as sites of human rights and democratic spaces of introspection and critical thinking. But given museums’ origins as organs of the state, questions simultaneously arise regarding how museums can best do the difficult work of opening public discussions around painful, contested histories that may implicate the very nations they represent. The proposed project probes the ability of two major new national museums in Canada and Poland, countries that have both recently begun grappling with their difficult histories in public, to meet their own stated mandates for social justice. It does so by seeking creative ways to operationalize postcolonial discourses of “critical museology” filtering into establishment museums by new cohorts of activist curators.


Dr. Failler speaks on “Eat Your Arts & Vegetables” (CKUW 95.9 FM Winnipeg)

Image of Dr. Failler at CKUW

Dr. Angela Failler at CKUW (photo credit: Eat Your Arts & Vegetables)

On December 3, 2015, research team member Dr. Angela Failler spoke with radio hosts Aleem Khan and Derek Brueckner on Eat Your Arts & Vegetables. This show, which broadcasts from the University of Winnipeg’s campus radio station, CKUW 95.9 FM, presents guests of diverse backgrounds and perspectives ranging from local self taught artists to internationally renowned interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary artists. The show’s mandate offers artists, curators, art academics, cultural workers and organizations a resource to promote their work and ideas in conjunction with current local art events.

Dr. Failler spoke about her research work over the past few years on the Canadian Museum for Human rights and working through “difficult knowledge” in relation to the Thinking through the Museum project.

Listen now to part one (interview begins at 2:30):

Continuing listening here (interview ends at 3:20):


Thinking through Inuit Art

Research team members view new Inuit art acquisitions in the WAG's art vault.

Research team members view new Inuit art acquisitions in the WAG’s art vault. (photo credit: Lauren Bosc)

On February 12, 2016, Thinking through the Museum team members participated in a workshop on Inuit art and curatorial practices at the University of Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Go to Collecting and Displaying Inuit Art under the Workshops tab for more description and a photo gallery.


Dr. Patterson speaks at Social Theory, Politics, and the Arts International Conference

Dr. Patterson at her talk in Australia.

Dr. Patterson at her talk in Australia.

On December 11, Dr. Monica Patterson spoke about the Thinking through the Museum project at the Social Theory, Politics, and the Arts International Conference in Adelaide, Australia at the University of South Australia.

Dr. Patterson’s paper, “Difficult Knowledge in Public: Thinking through the Museum” was presented in the Postcolonial Issues in Arts and Culture area during a parallel paper session. Her paper discussed this partnership and the concept of working through difficult knowledge in the context of museum and gallery exhibitions.

Dr. Patterson speaking on "Blackchat" in Sydney, Australia

Dr. Patterson speaking on “Blackchat” in Sydney, Australia

More information on the conference can be accessed at

While in Australia, Dr. Patterson was also featured as a guest on guest on “Blackchat”, on Koori Radio in Redfern, Sydney’s only First Nations radio station. She was there to talk about postcolonial issues in arts and culture, and some of the challenges and possibilities for achieving social justice in Canada and the United States.


Journal Special Issue Launch


UWinnipeg and UManitoba Contributors. L to R: Larissa Wodtke, Peter Ives, Mavis Reimer, Hee-Jung Serenity Joo, Karen Sharma, Angela Failler, Michael Dudley, Serena Keshavjee, Kate Ready, Heather Milne

Special Issue Launch Poster

Launch Poster

The official launch of the special double issue of the Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, titled Caring for Difficult Knowledge: Prospects for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, co- edited by Angela Failler, Peter Ives, and Heather Milne and featuring contributions from 9 members of the University of Winnipeg community [with a foreword by Erica Lehrer (Concordia)] was held on November 4, 2015. The event included a panel discussion by the editors with guests Mavis Reimer (Dean of Graduate Studies) and Michael Dudley (University of Winnipeg Library), as well as opening comments by Dr. Annette Trimbee, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Winnipeg.

“Curatorial Practice and Learning from Difficult Knowledge”

The Idea of a Human Rights Museum Book Cover

The Idea of a Human Rights Museum Book Cover (2015)

Dr. Angela Failler has published a co-written chapter with the late Roger I. Simon in the new volume The Idea of a Human Rights Museum edited by Karen Busby, Adam Mueller and Andrew Woolford (University of Manitoba Press 2015). The chapter, “Curatorial Practice and Learning from Difficult Knowledge,” opens with a dedication in memory of Simon:

I, Angela Failler, have developed this chapter from a proposed abstract, recent conference papers and other writings by Roger I. Simon, who was Professor Emeritus at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) of the University of Toronto. Roger died on September 17, 2012 before he could carry out a draft of the chapter himself. He entrusted these materials to me with the hope that his ideas would yet contribute to meaningful conversation on the prospect of a human rights museum. Undoubtedly, they already do. Roger was an eminent scholar whose provocative inquiries into ethics, pedagogy, remembrance and social justice have influenced educators, curators, artists and cultural critics alike, those committed to thinking through the difficulties of bearing witness to violent pasts in the present. To be sure, his legacy has touched other contributors to and readers of this book.”