Professor’s book inspires a forthcoming museum

For many writers with book titles to their credit, even a second edition of a published work represents a dream come true. It means the book is exercising influence. 

Every once in a while, a book has far greater reach. That’s the case with “History of Human Rights: From Ancient Times to the Era of Globalization” (University of California Press, 2004) by Micheline Ishay, a distinguished professor at DU’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. A seminal work in the study of human rights, the book is now the inspiration for a new national museum slated to open in June 2023 in Canandaigua, New York, a stone’s throw from Seneca Falls, known as a hub for the suffragette and abolitionist movements.  

Ishay first learned about the Human Rights Museum project—and her book’s influence—when she was in New York promoting her 2019 publication, “The Levant Express: The Arab Uprisings, Human Rights and the Future of the Middle East.” The museum’s founding director, Tom Crane, came to a reading, briefed Ishay on his vision and informed her that the museum’s exhibits would be based on concepts outlined in her book. 

The book itself isn’t Ishay’s sole contribution to the new museum. Going forward, she will work with Crane and Jack Rouse Associates in the development of individual exhibits. JRA is known for designing, among others, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the Nancy and David Wolf Holocaust and Humanity Center, the Ithra Energy Exhibit in Saudi Arabia and the Science Center in Singapore.  

“The hope will be to provide education for human rights both locally and internationally, featuring local stories of Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman while actively promoting human rights internationally,” Ishay says. 

Ishay also hopes the museum will help reverse some troubling trends. “In light of the alarming deterioration of established human rights norms, I would like to see human rights education gaining a more robust space in public education and beyond,” she says. “I would love to see the educational and interactive components for the museum become a model.”  

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