Duluth Children’s Museum asks the question, ‘RACE: Are We So Different?’The intersection of Race Road and Privilege Place sounds like a spot for a dusty, tense showdown reminiscent of the epic film “Once Upon a Time in the West.” Instead, it is part of a new exhibit about race now on view at the Duluth Children’s Museum’s Depot location.
By: Thomas Vaughn, Duluth Budgeteer News
The intersection of Race Road and Privilege Place sounds like a spot for a dusty, tense showdown reminiscent of the epic film “Once Upon a Time in the West.” Instead, it is part of a new exhibit about race now on view at the Duluth Children’s Museum’s Depot
Marked by a street sign at the edge of the exhibit, this corner is a good place to stop and survey the various kiosks that blend written text, video segments and artistic works into a global story about the development of racial relations over the last 200,000 years, with a particular emphasis on the history of race in America.
Both local residents and out-of-town visitors to the Depot are taking time to stop in and look around the exhibit. Formally titled “RACE: Are We So Different?”, the exhibit is on loan to the DCM from the
Science Museum of Minnesota. It will run until
Jeswa Harris works with ISD 709’s Office of Education Equity as a school integration specialist. He is of African-American, Puerto Rican and West Indian descent. Harris toured the exhibit last week.
“It’s a great exhibit with a lot of information. I really like the format, the visuals that allow you to sit down and think about the different aspects of race dealt with here; it’s pretty in-depth in its coverage,” said Harris, alluding to an area in the center of the exhibit space which offers a children’s book station and chairs where adult visitors can sit down and read small hand-held placards, the size of a restaurant menu, about school segregation, racial disparities in school standardized testing scores, and the construction of racial identity questions on the
“It inspires me and reminds me how important race still is, how it feels to be a person of color in terms of the obstacles that families have to face and overcome each day,” added Harris.
Jessica Gallant, a Caucasian teacher from a
charter high school in Philadelphia, was visiting the exhibit at the same time as Harris while on a vacation to the area to visit family. She watched a video “How Do You Experience Race?” The video documentary interviewed several individuals with various ethnic backgrounds about their personal experiences involving racial incidents.
“I think the strongest part of the video is how it’s compiled from people who come from all different walks of life — a photographer, theatre actor, media specialist, a professor and others from different backgrounds. The most powerful part is the basic point that this is an issue that can’t be ignored,” said Gallant.
The kiosk stations examine various aspects of ethnical and racial development by breaking them down into specific time periods and themes. One video kiosk at the beginning of the exhibit offers an interactive digital display that surveys ethnic migration patterns across 200 millennia of human
Another focuses on the Colonial American period, noting that the first legal use of the term “white” occurred in 1691 when the Virginia Colony enacted a law prohibiting marriage between whites and blacks. Other kiosks explore racial perspectives on current events issues, such as the use of American Indian symbolism for athletic teams and the 2008 presidential election outcome.
Lisa Fusco, of Italian and German ethnicity, was on vacation with her family, visiting from Waukesha, Wis. Fusco pointed out that visiting the exhibit offered her an opportunity to talk about the difference between race and ethnicity with her son.
“I think it’s a really nice exhibit for a children’s museum. A lot of the displays are good conversation starters. My son didn’t realize what our race is. He was mixing up his ethnicity with his race. I had to explain that we were considered white on the census,” said Fusco.
Lyn Pegg is volunteering her time as a docent at the exhibit. Along with 45 other volunteers, she received 2 hours of training before the exhibit opened.
“Our goal is to help people have a more meaningful experience at the exhibit, to understand more deeply the impact of racial identification on people’s lives. It’s a very significant theme within our county’s history; it’s very complex and emotional for many people,” said Pegg, who noted that the exhibit examines American racial history from the perspective of many ethnic groups including the
Chinese, Irish, and Slavic peoples.
Initially funded by the Ford Foundation and National Science Foundation, several local groups also contributed funds to bring the exhibit to Duluth. The American Anthropological Association managed the preparation of exhibit kiosk content. At the entrance doors to the exhibit, visitors may take several free handouts, including one titled “A Family Guide to Talking About Race.” Anyone wishing to learn more about this exhibit may also visit its website at www.understandingRACE.org.