Review: The Idea of a Human Rights Museum

busby coverMarjorie Schwarzer has recently published a positive review of Karen Busby, Adam Muller, and Andrew Woolford’s The Idea of a Human Rights Museum, which includes a chapter co-written by Thinking through the Museum‘s Project Director Angela Failler with the late Roger I. Simon. The review, published in Museum Management and Curatorship, can be accessed here.

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

A museum might facilitate dialogue, but can it be an appropriate place to inspire action on behalf of human rights? This book’s answer is inconclusive. Christopher Powell delineates what he sees as the hard truth: the fight for human rights is a continual struggle. He posits that CMHR’s narrative is ‘top down’, reflecting ‘the interests of the sovereign and … social elites’ who founded and funded it (p. 138). ‘Top down’ implies that abuses against humanity are aber- rant occurrences that can be transcended through enlightened institutions. Powell advocates a ‘bottom up’ approach that emphasizes a commitment to constant questioning and subversion of the larger system. Perhaps, Powell notes on page 141, an ongoing external critique of CMHR, such as the one presented in this valuable book, can allow the museum to become ‘a vehicle for the propagation of human rights, despite itself’.


“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.”