Let's Talk About Race [Carnegie Magazine]

What is race really? An exhibition and Hive-funded series of workshops at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History aim to answer that question with science.

This month’s Carnegie Magazine takes a deeper look at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s current exhibition, RACE: Are We So Different? which asks museum goers to examine the scientific and social constructs of race. With Hive support, a series of workshops over the summer invited teens to think about race in an honestand moreover, scientificmanner.

On a large floor map of the world, 15-year-old Nova Fox plants her black sneakers on India. She’s petite but commanding of her audience of mostly peers, many of them strangers, gathered together inside RACE: Are We So Different?, an exhibition on view at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

“My family started out in India,” she says, hopping west over the Middle East, landing squarely on Egypt. “They went on a pilgrimage,” she continues. “That’s how it started out that they got to Egypt and were enslaved and the word gypsy came about.” She inches her feet forward. “And then they went aaaaaaaall the way to Europe. Then racism started getting really bad and World War I is starting, so my family came to America.”

The summer sessions helped to develop and plan the museum’s Youth Summit on Race and Identity, an interactive program that will take place on October 22. It is all part of a mission to help kids understand how better to discuss the difficult topic of race.

Some people may lack the skills or the interest or the vocabulary or the courage to talk about race,” explains Cecile Shellman, communications specialist at the Museum of Natural History. “This exhibition really does invite people in overt and unconscious ways to talk about race.”

“One of the big-picture goals of the summit is to engage a variety of different organizations in Pittsburgh that are doing this kind of work,” says Laurie Giarratani, assistant director of education at the Museum of Natural History. “The questions surrounding race are too big for the museum or the students to work through on their own.”

As the exhibition comes to a close, the challenge remains in keeping the conversation alive. Read the full article at Carnegie Online to see what the museum is doing to keep the topic on young people’s minds, and what those students have to say about their experiences in the workshops and how the open line of communication has affected their worldview.

Published September 09, 2014