Guest post by Greg Bak

The current website for the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (CTR) presents key information. This includes links to multiple videos of the June 21, 2013 signing ceremony and speeches, as well as to important documents such as the trust deed and the administrative agreement that were signed on that day.

That said, this website can and should be much better.

At the November 26, 2013 meeting of the University of Manitoba CTR Implementation Committee, I provided some examples of websites that we might learn from. I also described some directions in which the development of the website might go.

This post offers my speaking notes from that presentation. These are my opinions, intended to get the discussion going. The CTR Implementation Committee has now created a CTR website subcommittee that will be responsible for design and content of the site, going forward.

I welcome your comments and suggestions on the topic of how we might design and develop the CTR website. For example, I would love to see some examples of websites that you feel do a really good job of welcoming participation.

What should the CTR website be?

  • The website is our front door – and our door should be wide open and welcoming.
  • The website should communicate a limited set of high-level messages about the CTR. These messages should be communicated through text, images, video and dynamic content.
  • Our bid stressed the principles of participatory archiving (ensuring that the people who use the archive have a role in the description and management of the records) and co-curation (ensuring that our partners have a share in the curation of the archive). The website should demonstrate these concepts in obvious, practical ways.
  • The website will be the primary interface for large numbers of visitors to the CTR. Many people may not be interested in conducting research into Indian Residential Schools, but they may visit the CTR website in order to get a sense of the collection and the organization.
  • The website is a cost effective way to reach remote communities

Here are a few websites that I have selected to highlight some principles of web design that we might consider while revising the CTR website. There are lots of other examples out there, and I hope that you will take the time to share some of your favourites, either in the comments below or by sending me an email.

DC Cam (

This is an independent archive of the Cambodian genocide, originally run as a field office of Yale University’s Cambodian Genocide Program (see History on website).

A couple of aspects of this website that I would like to highlight:

  • Lots of images and snippets of people’s stories
  • See the pages on Focus, Purpose, Organization & Leadership à high-level statements written in clear, plain language
  • Clean design that highlights the core messages of the organization

Plateau People’s Web Portal (

This website provides access to cultural materials of Plateau peoples held by several non-tribal organizations. It is a working example of co-curation between non-tribal organizations and tribal representatives.

A couple of aspects of this website that I would like to highlight:

  • Offers a working example of a participatory, co-curatorial approach to managing Indigenous holdings.
  • “Tribal Paths” offer a quick way to get from the front page and into the collections. The use of photos makes these collections quite accessible.

Ara Irititja (

This is a fully digital Indigenous archive, run by and for the Anangu of Australia.

A couple of aspects of this website that I would like to highlight:

  • This is a community-run archive. You must be member of community to access the archive. This restrictive approach to access means that the digital archive serves as a hub for the cultural and research uses of the Anangu.
  • It is fully participatory for the defined community of the Anangu.
  • It includes culturally relevant warnings such as that on the front page cautioning users that they may view images of community members who have passed away.

University of Manitoba’s Centre for Human Rights Research (

A couple of aspects of this website that I would like to highlight:

  • Demonstrates what can be done with the stylistic framework (the “look and feel”) of the University of Manitoba web templates
  • The homepage is visually dynamic and gives a sense of what the organization is about
  • Includes dynamic content like the “Researcher of the Week”
  • Includes a prominent link to “Join Our Email List” thus letting people know immediately what they can do to be kept informed of CHRR activities.

What should our website do?

Here are a few ideas that I had about what our website should try to do. I look forward to seeing your comments and suggestions as well.

1. Engage with survivors and communities

  • It should be evident that the CTR wants participation from those affected by Indian Residential Schools
  • It should be clear how people can participate
  • There should be a section for documents sent out to consultation. This can itself serve as a hub for web-based consultation on CTR documents.

2. Establish who are the people working on the CTR.

  • Identify members of all of committees
  • Put faces to this project – some photos of meetings, etc.
  • Identify our partners, and have content from our partners!!!

3. Demonstrate transparency

  • Include all key documentation about the CTR.
  • Include meeting minutes

4. Be visually engaging and dynamic

  • Be more than text oriented – embed videos, include pictures
  • Have dynamic content on the first page, so that there is always something new
  • Have a coherent architecture that naturally but quickly leads users to the content that they want, whether it be documentation about the CTR or the archival holdings of the CTR
  • Link out to University of Manitoba and partner events, projects & resources relevant to Indian Residential Schools.