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Public to get peek inside rights museum

Targeted groups to take tours in July

The human rights museum is slated to officially open next September.

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The human rights museum is slated to officially open next September. (BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES )

Stuart Murray

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Stuart Murray (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

Some Winnipeggers could get a sneak peek inside the Canadian Museum for Human Rights next summer as the new national institution begins testing its exhibits.

In what CMHR president and CEO Stuart Murray called a dress rehearsal before its official September opening, the museum will invite schoolchildren and targeted groups to tour the museum in July to see how they interact with the exhibits, make sure the technology works and help train staff.

That could spark a fresh round of criticism from cultural organizations and human rights advocates unhappy with how their particular issue has been tackled. But Murray said he hopes patrons know the museum will change and evolve after the day it opens its doors. The CMHR is confident its initial exhibits will hit the mark, but Murray said some level of controversy is inevitable.

"That's just the nature of our museum," he said.

Though specific exhibits are still under wraps, the CMHR used its annual general meeting Tuesday to highlight the construction of an unusual 360-degree theatre that will be used to explore "indigenous concepts of humanity."

The small theatre, wood-clad and shaped like a round basket, uses the same theatre technology as Disney's Epcot Centre and will also be used for performances and discussions.

In the next few weeks, staff are slated to move into the $351-million building at The Forks now that it's substantially complete, and the installation of the exhibits is slated to begin. Then, the museum will begin a volunteer recruitment drive early in the new year.

Details of the museum's grand opening have yet to be unveiled, but museum staff promise it will be a national celebration.

Once the museum opens Sept. 20, school tours will begin in earnest in January, 2015.

Students from outside the province could begin visiting the museum four months later as part of a national education program.

According to the museum's latest annual report, 170,000 people are expected to visit the museum in its first six months, with 5,000 buying annual memberships. That's roughly in keeping with an earlier projection that estimated annual visitors at 250,000.

Admission prices have yet to be finalized, said Murray, but the museum is working with other big local institutions such as the Winnipeg Art Gallery to ensure the CMHR doesn't undercut their admission prices.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

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