Museum of Us seeks community input to reframe ‘Race: Are We So Different?’ exhibit

Through community surveys, a committee will determine how to shift the exhibit to better reflect modern-day, local life.

SD Museum of Us Race Exhibit

Over the next 2-3 years, the Museum of Us wants to reshape this exhibit.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

The Museum of Us in Balboa Park is all about sharing inclusive and diverse storiesrepresenting all of us. 🌎

Now, the museum needs your feedback to rework and update the content in an exhibit about race and identity, a reframe the museum hopes will “better reflect the San Diego region and the current national dialogue on race.”

SD Museum of Us Race exhibit reframe

You’ll find the exhibit — and the survey kiosk — on the second floor.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

Race: Are We So Different?” first appeared at the museum in 2011 as a traveling exhibit. In 2015, the museum acquired the display and it became part of its core collection.

Fast-forward to 2023. ⏭️

The Museum of Us tells SDtoday the exhibit is currently in the middle of a “community-driven” project that will modernize it. A 17-member Race Advisory Committee has been analyzing the display since last May, developing its new content.

To help things along, the museum has rolled out an anonymous survey for guests to take at a kiosk near the exhibit now through mid-February. Visitors are asked to rate and reflect on the display, including ways to make it more relevant to both visitors and locals.

People can also sign up for 1-hour interviews with the museum to share a deeper perspective; these contributors will be compensated with $50 and 1-year museum membership. You can get more info about this by emailing the museum.

The committee will evaluate the community’s feedback by the end of February and start drafting the exhibit’s new script, with a goal to have it finalized by the fall.

SD Museum of Us Race exhibit

The museum wants guests to rate and reflect on this exhibit — and this will drive changes.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

L. James Haddan, the museum’s senior director of development and external communications, says the project — from content and design development to production — will take 2-3 years to complete.

You can get involved by visiting the museum Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., checking out the exhibit on the second floor, and answering the survey.

The Museum of Us at Balboa Park in San Diego, California

The Museum of Us at Balboa Park.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

By the way, this isn’t the first time the Museum of Us has sought help from the community to tell important stories. Since changing its name from the Museum of Man to the Museum of Us in 2020, the museum has vowed to “decolonize” by auditing the items in its collection, figure out how they were collected, and reflect those stories in their improved exhibits.

In 2021, those decolonizing initiatives drove the overhaul of the “Maya Peoples: Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth” exhibition, which the museum said was “outdated” and “one-sided.”

The newly reshaped Maya Peoples exhibit at the Museum of Us in San Diego.

The newly-reshaped “Maya Peoples” exhibit at the Museum of Us tells many stories.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

The museum tapped Maya community consultants from around the world to reshape that exhibit and last year, the colorful, powerful new version reopened in the rotunda.

The exhibit features a mural by Alicia María Siu designed to be “driven by, and representative of, the Mayan community.” The stories now told through the displays aim to celebrate the continuity of the Maya — past, present, and future generations.

📍 Visit: 1350 El Prado

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