The John Peters Humphrey archive added to the Canada Memory of the World Register

Published: 7 December 2023

To mark the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 10, 1948), McGill University and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO are pleased to announce the addition of the archives of John Peters Humphrey to the Canada Memory of the World Register.

This archive includes the first handwritten draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as typed subsequent versions written by Humphrey (1905-1995), Canadian law professor and human rights advocate. 

Humphrey was a Professor of Law at McGill University when he was invited to work with a committee of the United Nations Secretariat chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt to help the organization draft a statement on human rights. Following the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, Humphrey continued working with the UN in various roles, returning to McGill to serve as Professor of Law and Political Science in 1966. A French delegate claimed to have written the first draft of the declaration and was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1968. However, Humphrey’s first handwritten drafts were later discovered and published. He is now widely accepted as the Declaration’s first author.

"McGill University Libraries and Archives are deeply honoured and proud to have the John Peters Humphrey Fonds included in the Canada Memory of the World Register. The John Peters Humphrey Fonds is a remarkable collection that represents a rich tapestry of human rights history and embodies the legacy of one of McGill's most distinguished alumni. This recognition underscores the enduring significance of Humphrey's work and the essential safeguarding of this invaluable resource. In this spirit, we look forward to sharing the John Peters Humphrey Fonds with the world, ensuring that his efforts and the ideals he stood for continue to inspire and educate generations to come," said Professor Guylaine Beaudry, Trenholme Dean of Libraries.

On 10 December 2023, an exhibition titled "Beyond the Declaration: A Canadian Perspective on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” will open at the Nahum Gelber Law Library. The exhibit, curated by Kristen Howard and Ana Rogers-Butterworth, will feature items from the John Peters Humphrey archive, including the original draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

About McGill University

Founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1821, McGill University is Canada’s top ranked medical doctoral university. McGill is consistently ranked as one of the top universities, both nationally and internationally. It is a world-renowned institution of higher learning with research activities spanning three campuses, 11 faculties, 13 professional schools, 300 programs of study and over 39,000 students, including more than 10,400 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, its 12,000 international students making up 30% of the student body. Over half of McGill students claim a first language other than English, including approximately 20% of our students who say French is their mother tongue.

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