Discerning the human rights museum

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This paper critically engages with the growth of cultural actions among governments, urban policy makers, and various kinds of cultural institutions to find ways to translate human rights into accessible ideas and practices for the public. Researchers have noted an increasing interest in the utility of “cultural well-being” for promulgating a common understanding of rights in conflict-ridden times. An important type of relevant project seen in the last three decades is the construction of human rights museums. As a public cultural institution, a “human rights museum” (HRM) is defined in this paper as one that engages in collecting and curatorial exhibition of artifacts with a threefold mission to educate/advocate for the mainstreaming of rights, memorialize past events of trauma, and engender a legal common sense. This definition is consistent with the International Council of Museums’ general definition, according to the ICOM Statutes (adopted in 2007). Added to this generality are two important dimensions pursuant to HRMs, namely their relation to cultural governance and to human rights sociolegal norms. In this paper, I introduce a “juris-cultural” theoretical approach and use it to chart a conceptual framework for discerning the social, cultural, and political role played by HRMs in their vision of social memorialization and cultural transformation. Copyright © 2022 European Open Science.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
JournalEuropean Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


Erni, J. N. (2022). Discerning the human rights museum. European Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 2(4), 1-9. https://doi.org/10.24018/ejsocial.2022.2.4.275


  • Cultural governance
  • Human rights museums
  • Legal common sense
  • Juris-cultural approach


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