Race Website Review
One in the Same
RACE-Are We So Different? is a traveling exhibition that explores the science, history and lived experience of race and racism in the United States. By using interactive exhibit components, historical artifacts, iconic objects, compelling photographs and multimedia presentations, RACE challenges some common assumptions through its key messages- that race is a recent human invention, and how race is about culture, not biology. Also, that race and racism are embedded in our institutions and everyday life. RACE: Are We So Different? is part of a larger public education program initiated by the American Anthropological Association (AAA). The exhibition was developed with the Science Museum of Minnesota over more than three years, with major funding from the National Science Foundation, and additional support from the Ford Foundation and AAA. The program includes the 5,000-square-foot RACE exhibition, an interactive Website and educational materials.
The interactive Website tied to the exhibit is comprehensive, engaging and educational. Developed with S2N Media, Inc., in Warwick, N.Y., the site received the Interactive Media 2007 Award for Outstanding Achievement in Education. Educators are finding the RACE Web site an excellent resource — Education World gave the Web site an A+ for content and site design. The site features a variety of voices and perspectives and includes articles, guides for teachers and parents, a timeline covering 400 years of events in government, science and society, and test-your-knowledge quizzes on such subjects as sports and stereotypes and the question, "Who is white?" Of particular interest, the Web site examines the science of human variation, from genetics to skin color to the latest findings that may challenge how people think about race and differences among people. For visitors wanting to continue the discussions, the site features a blog.
I will admit that my expectations for RACE were low. I expected something dreary and didactic, maybe a little strident or preachy. But the reviewer above got it right. A straightforward, rational tone, combined with a multiplicity of non-authoritative voices often channeled through familiar contexts (the highschool cafeteria or the census, for some examples) made this exhibit engrossing and relevant. Sure, rules were violated (there are overly long text panels), but you get the main idea very distinctly: that race is a cultural construct, not a scientific fact. When I was there, the exhibit was busy with a very diverse group of visitors of all ages. There was alot of pointing and discussing, alot of reading, a high degree of attentiveness. The blending of science, sociology, anthropology and history was also successful as an interdisciplainry approach, one that is worth emulating for other subjects. I think the museum world could use more bold and topical projects like RACE.