Ryerson’s groundbreaking disability rights exhibit moves to national stage in Canadian Museum for Human Rights

By , on April 27, 2014

Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Photo from Wikipedia.
Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Photo from Wikipedia.


TORONTO — The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) signs an agreement with Ryerson University today that will see a groundbreaking exhibit on disability rights displayed in Canada’s new national museum in Winnipeg when it opens September 20, 2014.

A project of scholarly activism from Ryerson’s School of Disability Studies, the award-winning “Out from Under” exhibit uses 13 everyday objects like a modified shovel, a breathing apparatus, grey sweat suits and a Braille watch to present a compelling history of Canadians with disabilities, in a way that has never been done before.

“The perspective that emerges in this unique exhibit will not only enrich our understanding of the experiences of people with disabilities, but provoke thought and discussion about human rights for everyone. We are grateful to have this powerful history lesson as part of our visitor experience,” said Angela Cassie, CMHR Director of Communications.

A public event and signing ceremony takes place at 1 p.m. today in the atrium of the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre, 245 Church Street. Exhibit contributors and members of the disability community will also be in attendance.

Kathryn Church, director of the School of Disability Studies, said the broad human rights context of the CMHR will help elevate awareness of disability rights from the realms of pity and medical “oddity” to an issue of fundamental human rights.

“This exhibit was developed from the ground up by a group of students, activists, alumni and scholars,” she said. “They assembled a collection of objects that tell stories of shame, neglect and disenfranchisement – but at the same time, illuminate a proud history of resistance and survival.”

“We are amplifying the voices and sharing the perspectives of people whose place in history has, until now, been almost entirely overlooked,” said Melanie Panitch, associate professor and co-curator of the exhibit.

Cassie said the concept of “breaking silence” on human rights violations is a strong and recurring theme in the CMHR, as well as stories of resiliency and survival. The Ryerson exhibit will be presented in the Museum’s largest gallery, devoted to Canada’s human rights journey. Other stories related to disability rights will be found in gallery spaces throughout the Museum, which has been built as a fully accessible experience featuring the most inclusive design in Canadian history.

Aligned with the collaborative approach of the CMHR, the Memorandum of Understanding with Ryerson extends beyond the exhibit loan to other cooperative activities such as developing educational material, coordinating speakers and workshops, research, testing and advice.

The exhibit has been prominently featured at the Royal Ontario Museum in 2008 and at the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad in partnership with Kickstart Festival.


A backgrounder on the exhibit is attached below, including links to more information.

About the Canadian Museum for Human Rights
The CMHR is the first museum in the world solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights. It is the first national museum in Canada to be built outside the National Capital Region. Using immersive multi-media technology and other innovative approaches, the Museum will create inspiring encounters with human rights as part of a visitor experience unlike any other.
About the Ryerson School of Disability Studies
Ryerson School of Disability Studies offers a distinctive undergraduate program that illuminates the extent to which the lives of disabled people are shaped by patterns of injustice, exclusion, discrimination and the rule of social, cultural and aesthetic norms. It does not teach about disability, but about social and material worlds, beginning from disability.
About Ryerson University
Ryerson University is Canada’s leader in innovative, career-oriented education and a university clearly on the move. With a mission to serve societal need, and a long-standing commitment to engaging its community, Ryerson offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs. Distinctly urban, culturally diverse and inclusive, the university is home to more than 38,000 students, including 2,300 master’s and PhD students, nearly 2,700 faculty and staff, and more than 155,000 alumni worldwide. Research at Ryerson is on a trajectory of success and growth: externally funded research has doubled in the past four years. The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education is Canada’s leading provider of university-based adult education. For more information, visit www.ryerson.ca.

Press release: 25 April 2014