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:: Exhibits at the Museum

RACE: Are We So Different?


We expect people to look different. And why not? Like a fingerprint, each person is unique. Every person represents a one-of-a-kind, combination of their parents’, grandparents’ and family’s ancestry. And every person experiences life somewhat differently than others.

Differences… they’re a cause for joy and sorrow. We celebrate differences in personal identity, family background, country and language. At the same time, differences among people have been the basis for discrimination and oppression.

Yet, are we so different? Current science tells us we share a common ancestry and the differences among people we see are natural variations, results of migration, marriage and adaptation to different environments. How does this fit with the idea of race?

Looking through the eyes of history, science and lived experience, the RACE Project explains differences among people and reveals the reality – and unreality – of race. The story of race is complex and may challenge how we think about race and human variation, about the differences and similarities among people.

RACE, which is a traveling exhibition developed by the American Anthropological Association in collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota, tells the stories of race from biological, cultural, and historical points of view.

Using historical artifacts, photographs, multimedia presentations, and interactive activities, the exhibit allows visitors to think about race in a different light. The exhibit addresses how the concept of race was created, how it differs from human variation, and how race and racism play a role in our everyday lives.

The RACE exhibition explores three primary themes: The science of human variation and where current scientific understanding is inconsistent with popular notions of race. The history of the idea of race, with an emphasis on the role of science in shaping the concept of race. The contemporary experience of race and racism in the United States, and the often-invisible ways race and racism have infiltrated laws, customs, and institutions. The educational goal of the RACE project is to help individuals of all ages better understand the origins and manifestations of race and racism in everyday life by investigating race and human variation through the framework of science. The RACE exhibit is part of a larger public education project from American Anthropological Association funded by the Ford Foundation and the National Science Foundation. The project is intended to inform and shape the national dialogue about race. In addition to the exhibit, the initiative includes a Web site, educational materials, and conferences designed to share research and information with the public. RACE premiered Jan. 10, 2007 at the Science Museum of Minnesota. After closing there in May of that year, the exhibit embarked on a tour of museums and science centers across the country.

Race is sponsored by National Presenter, Best Buy Children’s Foundation and by Local Presenter, University of California, Riverside.


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Contact Danielle Leland
Associate Curator of Education