Transformative Human Rights: 25 Years in the Field

2012, Art Museum at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law, History, Temporary Exhibit
anniversary, criminal law, gender-based violence, history, human rights, law, refugee rights, University of Toronto
About This Project

Date: February 9 – 23, 2012

Partner: Art Museum at the University of Toronto

Venue: University of Toronto Art Centre – map

Project Members: Stephanie Butland, Gillian Gallimore, Rumin Jehangir, Shannon Linde, Rachel Meloche, Erika Smith, and Haley Smith


Jointly curated by students in the Faculty of Information Master of Museum Studies program and the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto. The exhibition ran from February 9 – 23, 2012, and featured a fundraiser opening, a student reception, musical performance, and curatorial tour. The exhibition team from the Faculty of Information consisted of seven students: Stephanie Butland, Gillian Gallimore, Rumin Jehangir, Shannon Linde, Rachel Meloche, Erika Smith, and Haley Smith; the Faculty of Law team was made up of six students who are also the editorial board of Rights Review, the journal of the International Human Rights Program (IHRP). The team was lead by two law faculty advisors, Renu Mandhane (Director of the IHRP), and Jennifer Orange, and former University of Toronto Museum Studies professor, Jennifer Carter.


The mission of this exhibition was to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the IHRP by showcasing the transformations in human rights law through the lens of IHRP student internships. The exhibition focused on four human rights issues in which IHRP interns have made significant contributions: Refugee Rights (RR), International Criminal Law (ICL), Corporate Accountability (CA), and Gender-Based Violence (GBV). The exhibit also looked to the future with a section on the Next 25 Years. These topics were narrated in five spatially driven installations and included photographs from the past 25 years of internships. The photographs communicated the intern’s experience and visualized the issues, while each space contextualized the topic. Text panels were implemented to discuss the developments within each topic along with a physical and digital timeline and map, which honoured the work of 300 interns since the program’s inception in 1987. The exhibition’s final outcome is a result of the decision process stemming from challenges related to the broad target audience of professional lawyers, as well as law, museum studies, and general university students. In addition, financial resources, limited photograph choices, resolution of the photography collection, and the nature of the exhibition space all had an effect on the exhibition. These challenges, brought to the forefront during the planning process led to changes from the project’s original proposal.


The overall design concept for the exhibition was based on highlighting the positive, transformative aspects of human rights work within the IHRP. In order to complement this vision, the design used several bright, bold colours, in addition to a subdued palette of greys. The intention was to create a mood that was respectful of the seriousness of human rights issues, but also celebratory of the achievements and developments in the field made possible through organizations like the IHRP. The typography is similarly minimal and sans-serif, aiming to be current and young, but not trendy.


The exhibition design took the form of spatial installations, aiming to distinguish between thematic sections by highlighting the many different environments where human rights work occurs. Each section will be discussed below. The exceptions to this were the map, timeline, and the Next 25 Years theme, which adhered much more to the graphic identity of the exhibit and used more vinyl than the other sections. The graphic design was developed for the exhibition vinyls, as well as for promotional materials such as a save-the-date flyer, an e-vite, a promotional poster, and a take-away brochure.


Further, the graphics for the map and timeline were adapted into online versions using similar standards. Although each aspect of the graphic design had specific constraints, all used the same typeface and colour palette.