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Museum brings back exhibit on race, stereotypes

September 8th, 2020

A view of the entry to "Sorting Out Race: Examining Racial Identity and Stereotypes in Thrift Store Donations" at Kauffman Museum

The Kauffman Museum traveling exhibit “Sorting Out Race” will be on display just through the end of this month.

COVID-19 brought home from the road “Sorting Out Race: Examining Racial Identity and Stereotypes in Thrift Store Donations,” developed by a team of museum staff and community consultants in 2015.

Its last day is Sunday, Nov. 29.

Thanks to the work of museum exhibition assistant Rebecca Schrag, viewers can interact virtually with “Sorting Out Race” at any time. This is not an online tour of the exhibit, but addresses many of the issues it examines, using exhibit artifacts.

Five years ago, the museum at Bethel College debuted “Sorting Out Race,” based on an exhibit concept by Leia Lawrence, a former manager at the Newton Et Cetera Shop.

Every day, thrift stores across the United States receive donations of objects that display racial imagery – from antique advertising cards to collectible salt-and-pepper shakers, from vintage children’s books to mugs, glasses and clothing with sports team mascots.

“Sorting Out Race” was developed to examine questions such as: Are these objects harmless reminders of historical attitudes or do they continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes about race? Should thrift stores sell them, or should they be “sorted out” of the resale environment and discarded?

After it was first displayed at Kauffman Museum, “Sorting Out Race” was converted to a traveling exhibit and went on the road.

Andi Schmidt Andres, museum director, said, “Since its completion five years ago, ‘Sorting Out Race’ has traveled to 11 sites from Indiana to the West Coast.

“Museum staff are making additions to the exhibit to reflect current social issues and related topics in the news – rebranding and sports teams – reminding us that racism and stereotypes are current and evolving topics.

“A space opened up in the exhibit’s traveling schedule, thanks to COVID-19, and ‘Sorting Out Race’ will come home for a few months.

“We hope the central Kansas community can use ‘Sorting Out Race’ to facilitate difficult community conversations.”

The original exhibit team was then-Bethel student, now graduate, Nicole Eitzen, North Newton resident Paloma Olais, Kauffman Museum exhibit technician David Kreider, Kauffman Museum curator of exhibits Chuck Regier, then-director Annette LeZotte, retired director Rachel Pannabecker, and Wichita State University student Jake Harris.

Regular Kauffman Museum hours are Tues.-Fri. 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 1:30-4:30 p.m., closed Mondays and major holidays. However, with ever-changing COVID-19 protocols, you are advised to check the museum’s website or Facebook page or call 316-283-1612 before planning a visit.

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.