An exhibit designed to take a cultural, scientific and historical look at race throughout history and the reasons differences should be celebrated will open June 4 at the South Carolina State Museum.
The traveling exhibit, “RACE: Are We So Different?” is a project of the American Anthropological Association in collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota, and comes to Columbia through a grant from the Central Carolina Community Foundation’s Connected Communities program. The Community Foundation’s Community Impact Committee sees the exhibit as an opportunity to continue building a welcoming community as communities are strengthened when their residents allow themselves to explore challenging and sometimes uncomfortable topics together.
The history section of the exhibit will emphasize how race has evolved in the United States. The Creating Race station tells the story of how race in the United States was used to legitimize forced labor in the 17th and 18th centuries leading to a legalized system of slavery of Africans. Human (Mis)measure, focuses on the pursuit of “race science” in the 19th and 20th centuries, used to legitimize racial and ethnic inequalities.
In the science portion of the exhibit, visitors will discover that human beings are more alike than any other living species, and investigate what science tells us about human variation and its connection to ideas about race. Visitors can use a computer simulation to experiment with the dynamics of gene flow and hear from scientists discussing what their research reveals about human variation and how it differs from common conceptions of race.
In the exhibit’s Everyday Experience , visitors will explore personal perspectives on race in schools, health care systems, neighborhoods, sports and entertainment industries and more. “Who’s Talking” is an interactive experience that challenges visitors assumptions of racial and ethnic differences. Here, visitors will try to match the voice they hear to one of the photos they see in front of them. A recreated row house will serve as a setting for stories about unfair housing practices, land ownership and wealth. Visitors will also be able to read stories of the near-genocide of American Indians. A pharmacy will offer a setting for exploring racism in health care. The exhibit also features a video playing in a re-created high school cafeteria of students giving their view on race and how their experience is different from previous generations.
“The events of the past year in South Carolina have made us all pause and ask ourselves deeper questions. Today, conversations about race and issues dealing with race are happening around kitchen tables, in work break rooms, and classrooms across the state,” said Willie Calloway, executive director of the South Carolina State Museum. “I am hopeful that by presenting this exhibit, the State Museum will help to answer those questions and perhaps even in our own small way, provide opportunities for healing and understanding across our state.”
The State Museum is open Monday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Tuesday, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Wednesday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sunday, 12 – 5 p.m. General admission to the museum is $6.95 for children 12 and under, $7.95 for seniors and $8.95 for adults. More information on exhibits, tickets, and membership is available here.