Human Rights through Virtual Reality

The Reimagination of Exhibitions at the Canadian Musuem for Human Rights

by James Blackwell, Zach Francis and Kyeesha Wilcox

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Project Description

The Canadian Museum of Human Rights is committed to the exploration of human rights “with a special but not exclusive reference to Canada.” In maintaining CMHR’s stated mandate as well as extending its reach to a wider community, the Canandian Museum for Human Rights Virtual Reality Team (CMHRVR) team will produce a VR experience that introduces and engages patrons. The project is meaningful before it further immerses patrons into the lived experiences of individuals and communities which inspired exhibitions. The project addresses the need faced by many institutions of how to maintain community engagement, outreach and experience in the 21st century. For Museums to maintain relevance they must embrace technology which refocuses patron attention. VR, is a cutting edge technological tool that will being in patrons across age ranges and backgrounds.The project is designed as as twofold immersive experience. First it is designed as a pre-vist tool, to introduce, intice and endear the Museums current exhibits to its patrons. The second design is more immersive and takes place once patrons have entered the museum.

What are the Deliverables?


The CMHRVR team will produce 3D exhibits for the Canadian Museum of Human Rights that they will be able to make available through various platforms. Museumgoers will be able to experience the same Virtual reality exhibits through physical headsets, online through a web-based interface or through apps which allow users to experience VR on their phones. This digital project operates as a pre-visit tool to engage museum patrons. This will allow for the widest possible engagement, being specifically ideal for classrooms and other small groups. These multiple ways to experience our digital project will allow our exhibits to reach as many people as possible.

How do we do VR?

Functionality and Technology

This project will depend on technology needed for 3D modeling virtual environments, and ways to ways to experience those environments. The bulk of this work will depend on the designing and building of virtual environments using Unity. This platform allows a lot of flexibility in creating meaningful virtual environments and exhibits for exploring human rights. These exhibits will include reconstructions and galleries, but many types of exhibits are possible. For instance, a boarding school for indigenous children could be reconstructed or a gallery could be built for viewing images related to the Rohingya people of Myanmar. The immersive feeling of virtual reality will increase focus on important topics such as these. Functionally, we will be building three ways to experience these virtual environments. The first way will be in-house using headsets provided by the museum. Visitors will be able to put on headsets and walk through whatever exhibit is on display that day. The second option will be through an online web browser that will embed the Virtual Environment into the webpage. Potential visitors will be able to navigate through virtual environments using a keyboard and mouse. Alternatively, a link will be available on the site allowing them to download an app on their phone to experience the environment through a headset

What will we use?


How will it Work?

Unity Logo


Unity is a cross-platform game engine developed by Unity Technologies that can be used to create three-dimensional, two-dimensional, virtual reality, and augmented reality games, as well as simulations and other experiences

A-Frame Logo


A-Frame is a virtual reality framework used to embed 3-d environments onto web pages

Virtual Reality Headset Excitment

On-Site Headsets

Virtual Reality is best experienced at the Museum! Check out the best headsets for your virutal exhibits!

Google Cardboard Headset

App based VR

Your VR exhibits will be available through Mobile apps


Our audience are recent and first time patrons who are interested in experiencing the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. The purpose of focusing on this demographic is to educate patrons about the current exhibition topics as well as the permanent galleries, which have themes centering around the violations of human rights and discussions about the personal connections to human rights and personal experiences while being in Canada. This audience demographic was chosen because the web-based interface can strengthen in-person experiences of the museum’s exhibitions, and for first-time visitors, the interface can show them what the museum has to offer and give a preview to exhibitions that they may wish to visit when in-person.


  • The Canadian Museum of Human Rights
  • Corporate Partners of the Museum
  • The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (lent reconcilation gifts in Indian Residential School Exhibit)
  • Kevin Frayer (photographer of Rohingya Displacement Exhibit)
  • A 3D Software Company (graciously giving us a discount)
  • Michigan State University's LEADR Lab


Who We Are


James Blackwell

A PhD Candidate in African History at Michigan State University.

Zach Francis

Super awesome dude who likes to eat and make virtual reality

MSU Globe profile pick

Kyeesha Wilcox

Second Year Master's Student in Geography at Michigan State University.