An exhibit that explores the science, history and everyday experience of race and racial issues is opening this weekend at the Science Center of Iowa. Paul Jennings, the facility’s president, says the exhibit, “Race: Are We So Different?” should prove engaging for the community and spark conversations about the issue. Jennings calls it thoughtful and thought-provoking.
“It doesn’t, as an exhibit, take account of color, ethnicity, diversity,” Jennings says. “One of the things that’s very obvious with this exhibit is that we’re all different and that’s something we should celebrate.” In one section, the exhibit displays how human beings are more alike than any other living species, and how no one gene or set of genes can support the idea of race. Jennings says the exhibit includes a variety of interactive components, historical artifacts, iconic objects, compelling photographs and multimedia presentations.
“We want to engage people with this learning agenda,” Jennings says. “We want to send people away with more questions than they arrive (with) and this is certainly an exhibit that will do that. This is a venue that is eager to promote learning in its many shapes and forms and we think this is a great opportunity for us to do that.” He says race will be viewed based on things like economic interests, popular culture, science, politics and the struggle for power throughout history.
The traveling exhibit has only been in much larger markets prior to coming to Des Moines, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, St. Louis and the Twin Cities. Jennings says one particular area of the exhibit teaches visitors a lesson about skin color at a very personal level.
“Visitors will come in, they’ll take a photograph of their skin under a camera,” Jennings says. “Their skin color will then get put up against a map of lots of other photos of other visitors’ skin colors and what you see immediately is actually that everybody’s skin color is different.” He says it’s a clever way of demonstrating that we’re all unique.
The exhibit opens Saturday and will be at the Science Center of Iowa through early September. For information, visit: “www.sciowa.org“.