Our city’s character is clear to most Winnipeggers, so it is laughable how out of touch some so-called urbanists and CMHR proponents are with the city. A new building will not go up on every surface parking lot because of the CMHR, nor will people choose to move to Winnipeg and buy million dollar condos because of it. All the propaganda about such an upcoming renaissance is designed to make taxpayers feel they will be getting value for the $300+ million of public money going into the CMHR.
For example, Brent Bellamy, the “On Architecture” columnist at the Winnipeg Free Press has at least twice (1,2) posited that Winnipeg will experience the ‘Bilbao Effect.’ In short, the idea is that Winnipeg will see the increase in tourism and become an urbanist mecca like what happened in Bilbao, Spain, following the opening of their Guggenheim Museum in 1997. Of course, Winnipeg is no Bilbao. Fortunately, two excellent and rational Winnipeg bloggers have previously responded to this claim and detailed key differences between Winnipeg and Bilbao (see these posts at Anybody Want a Peanut and The View from Seven).
I’ll hammer home the point that when people choose vacation destinations, they usually choose fun and/or relaxation, not somber experiences. An exception to this is if actual notable history happened at the site, such as visiting Auschwitz. ‘Interactive video screens’ with minimal actual artifacts are unlikely to be a big draw. It is doubtful that multiple and justified controversies will be a positive way bring out the tourists (e.g. ‘come to this taxpayer-funded shrine to political correctness, and human hypocrisy and ego’). Tourists may visit such a museum if they already happen to be a tourist in a city. However, Winnipeg does not have any substantial attractions to lure tourists to it from outside of this region (sorry, The Forks is just not all that special or unique, and the only out of town visitors coming to IKEA or Jets/Bombers are likely from rural Manitoba).
For its first year, sure, many people from Manitoba will visit the CMHR out of curiosity. Yours Truly is even going to see the darned thing (with reviews to follow here at the DSC). After Year 1, I predict most visitors will be students on forced fieldtrips and some Canadian armed forces personnel as part of their training. The CMHR has tried to put one over the public previously by sneakily including online visitors in their projections of “visitors to this museum.” No doubt they’ll feel the need to manipulate the visitor stats again; this is something that seeing it once is enough, it’s not the sort of attraction people would normally make a yearly visit to so the real visitor counts will quickly decline.
How is it then that many of the so-called ‘urbanists’ who sing the Gospel of Jane Jacobs and spend much time thinking/tweeting about Winnipeg urban issues do not recognize these truisms, parrot the CMHR propaganda, and believe that a single and dubious government mega-project will rejuvenate the city? Because for them, support for the CMHR is entirely about adding a tall glass spire to Winnipeg’s skyline – at any cost.
The Midtown Troll
For other related DSC reading, see "The Museum of Human Hypocrisy (or The Shrine to Ego" by Angry Downtownite.