The large all-ages show is rooted in studies of biological, cultural and historical notions of race but is very accessible, and a good portion of it is participatory. Photographs, videos, charts, interactive stations and historical artifacts tell stories that educate, surprise, explain and sometimes challenge held stereotypes. For example:
--"Who is White?" asks a display near the entry. It invites visitors to scroll through a list of nationalities to classify them as "white," "not white" or "unsure." Albanians, Algerians and Belgians lead a long list. And what about their immigrant populations?
--A station invites visitors to photograph one of their hands and add their skin shade to a growing mosaic.
--Native Americans identify themselves on a video and each concludes, "I am not a mascot."
--A wall of back-lit photographs of a diversity of individuals tests visitors' notions of which characteristics are shared. The answers are sometimes counter-intuitive.
--Faces on a stack of three monitors morph as their features -- hair, lips, eyes -- mingle characteristics ascribed to one group or another.
The exhibit was developed by the
The exhibit does not deny difference but challenges the validity of broadly assigning characteristics to individuals -- such as intelligence, musical tastes, work ethic or sports ability -- based upon surface qualities such as skin color.
"It's not a finger-wagging or shaming exhibit," said
The goal is to correct "misapplications of history and science" and instead to share "very well-established research by a very erudite body of scholars."
"We become the objects," Ms. Shellman said. "Each of us has an identity. This is us. We are the person talking on the screen. Until we humanize each other, we can't understand each other. It's the job of museums, to make the collection relevant."
Some of the most interesting information is in texts and charts. A reproduction of the
A timeline briefly relates the story of 7-year-old Minik, an Inuit who was brought from
"Most physical variation, about 94 percent, lies within so-called racial groups," according to the
A scientist explains in a video that were one to go to
Historically, the concept of race that informs 21st-century America began concurrent with the rise of colonialism and ultimately as a rationalization for slavery. Over time, immigrants began to receive their own typecasting.
As the exhibit travels, venues frequently add a local component. The Carnegie has mounted a rotating mini-exhibition that comprises interviews of Pittsburghers concerning race made in the 1950s to 1970s and replicated this year. Complementary programming during the run of the show is designed to invite commentary and discussion.
One display is of 17 works from
"I am a person," wrote a little girl.
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