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Science Museum of Minnesota brings race-oriented exhibit to Worthington

Dale Wiehle (right) points as Adam Wohlwend studies a blueprint of where the components of the Science Museum of Minnesota's RACE exhibit will fit in the Minnesota West library during exhibit installation last week. (Speical to The Globe)1 / 2
The "Race: Are We So Different?" exhibit includes photographs, multimedia and other interactive techniques to teach visitors about race topics. (Alyssa Sobotka / The Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — In a first-of-a-kind outreach from one of Minnesota’s major museums, southwest Minnesotans now have an opportunity to explore race-related topics spanning across multiple centuries without having to travel much farther than their back doors.

From now through April, area residents are invited to visit a condensed version of the Science Museum of Minnesota’s award-winning exhibition “Race: Are We So Different?” at Minnesota West Community and Technical College’s Worthington Campus. The 450 square-foot interactive display may be viewed free of charge in the college’s Learning and Academic Resource Center during operating hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays; and 1 to 5 p.m. most Sundays .

“We want to deepen and to expand the conversation around race and racism that’s already happening in America more broadly and specifically in Worthington,” said Tony Williams, Science Museum of Minnesota’s Greater Minnesota RACE exhibit project leader of the purpose of creating the small-scale version for Greater Minnesota communities. “We want folks to hopefully get a better understanding of the science and history behind the idea of race.”

Through the small-scale version of the original exhibit — which was developed in a partnership with the American Anthropological Society and on display at the museum’s St. Paul location for more than a decade — visitors will interact with various multimedia, photographs and touch-screen monitors.

The entire exhibit is offered in English and Spanish and includes data tailored to the area, including demographic shifts in Nobles County, the achievement gap and home ownership rates in southwest Minnesota.

The Worthington exhibit is one of the museum’s three small-scale versions created to encourage communities in Greater Minnesota with resources more limited than those in major metropolitan areas to begin fruitful dialog about race topics, Williams said. Similar exhibits were also installed in Rochester and Moorhead.

Williams said the three communities were chosen informally, but cited existing relationships with Worthington school district teachers who have previously attended museum workshops as influential in getting the exhibit to the southwestern corner of the state.

Museum representatives traveled to Worthington last spring and discussed with various community members whether they thought the exhibit was wanted in the area.

“We got a strong affirmative, so that’s when we decided we’d for sure bring it down,” Williams said.

A five-member advisory council was selected by formal application to help the museum navigate the relationships with community members to make sure Worthington's needs are met, Williams said. The advisory council includes Ivan Parga, Aida Simon, Andrea Magana, Esther Cristina Adame and Leticia Rodriguez.

The college was willing to host the exhibit, and Minnesota West President Terry Gaalswyk said it’s grateful to have been chosen to do so.

“The exhibit and workshops that are being prepared to engage our community and the possibilities of coming together to discuss topics around race fall squarely within our charge as an institution of higher learning,” he said.

While the exhibit has a tentative termination date in April, Williams said it is “possible and probable that the exhibit will remain in Worthington permanently.”   

The exhibit is also designed to be a catalyst for further discussion throughout the community.

Minnesota West Marketing Specialist Carrissa Haberman said small groups and schools are welcome and encouraged to explore the exhibit, which is suggested for audiences middle school-aged and older. An educator’s guide is available on the college’s web page under the “news” tab.

“It gives instructors an idea of what to expect,” Haberman said about the guide she recommends instructors use to enhance their students’ experience. Schools may contact the college’s marketing department to coordinate a group tour.

Micro grants are available for area community organizations who would like to host events or programs to continue the discussion in other forms, be it through art, theatre performance or series of discussions.

“We want to provide a space where community members can bring their own experiences and wishes to the race exhibit,” Williams said about the purpose of available grant funding.

Area residents interested in learning more about available grant funding can make plans to attend one of two planned RACE kickoff events: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 21 and a 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 22 youth kickoff program. All ages are welcome at the first kickoff event, with the youth event being tailored to youths ages 16 to 25. A light dinner will be provided from 6 to 6:30 p.m. for those interested in applying for grant funds. RSVPs are preferred by Oct. 15 for each event. A link to the RSVP form is available on the college’s news release.

“(Worthington) already has an incredible amount of conversations around race and racism that is happening in their community,” Williams said. “Our goal is not to create something that isn’t there, but to provide a physical space and some events and programming opportunities for folks to keep having those conversations.”

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