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Riverside Metropolitan Museum Welcomes RACE Exhibit June 3

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UC Riverside graduate students will present companion research projects from the Inland Empire on June 5

When the traveling museum exhibit “RACE: Are We So Different?” opens at Riverside Metropolitan Museum on Thursday, June 3, Yolanda Moses will be one of the first to welcome the award-winning project to the community where her career as an anthropologist began.

Moses, a professor of anthropology and associate vice chancellor for diversity, excellence and equity at the University of California, Riverside, was president of the American Anthropological Association from 1995 to 1997 when development of the RACE project began. She chaired the 27-member, interdisciplinary, national advisory committee and remains a co-curator and co-principal investigator of the overall project, which includes three traveling exhibits, an award-winning Web site and downloadable materials for teachers, parents and the general public.

“Most people (non-academics) think biological race is real,” Moses said. “We’re saying it’s not. Human variation is real. And the social construction of race is real. Anthropologists and other biological scientists will tell you there is only one biological race, because we are all the same species, Homo sapiens sapiens.”

Funded by both the National Science Foundation and the Ford Foundation, the goals of the initiative are to inform the public about the science, history and everyday experience of race and racism in U.S. society. The interactive exhibit addresses race and racism from the viewpoints of science, history and lived experience. The lived experience portion illustrates how the institutionalization of racism continues to affect education, health and wealth accumulation among different ancestral groups in this country. “Belief in the biological social hierarchy of race can still be seen in institutions such as banking, education and real estate, both in the buying of homes and in wealth accumulation,” Moses said.

Among the student projects are: an examination of redlining (discriminatory real estate practices), race and ethnicity in the Inland Empire; the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the region; allies and supporters of Japanese families who were interned during World War II; a pictorial history of the Sherman Indian Institute in Riverside; and an oral history of a mixed-race Latino family. The student projects will ultimately appear nationally on the RACE project Web site, www.understandingrace.org.

In addition, the students will display their projects at UCR in fall 2010.

Moses said that she and Tom Patterson, chair of the Department of Anthropology, are negotiating with a prestigious academic journal to coedit a special edition devoted to the students’ research as a model of engaged collaboration that other museums and universities can follow. The original, 5,000-squarefoot, interactive RACE exhibit opened in January 2007 at the Science Museum of Minnesota, along with a companion Web site and instructional materials for families, undergraduate courses and K- 12 teachers. Originally funded with grants of $1 million from the Ford Foundation and $2.8 million from the National Science Foundation, the exhibit has been so popular that the American Anthropological Association raised money to construct a second exhibit. The Ford Foundation provided another $450,000 to create a compact, interactive, 1,500-square-foot version suitable for smaller museum spaces around the country. It is the smaller exhibit that will be in Riverside, co-presented by Best Buy Children’s Foundation and UC Riverside.The RACE project has appeared in museums around the country and will tour American cities through 2014. It was at the California Science Center in Los Angeles and the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley most recently on the West Coast, and will be at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., this spring and summer.

Next year theSmithsonian Museum of Natural History will host the exhibit for six months instead of the usual three. It will coincide with the Smithsonian’s summer folk festival, which is expected to draw millions of visitors from around the world. More than 1 million people have seen the RACE exhibit so far.

The exhibit opens on Thursday, June 3, during Riverside’s Arts Walk, and continues through Sept. 26. A series of study group circles hosted by the “Friends Across the Line” will cover the anthropological, cultural, and social aspects of race. The series will be held September 12, 19, and on the closing date the 26th from 3 – 5 pm.

Riverside Metropolitan Museum is located at 3580 Mission Inn Ave. in downtown Riverside. It is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is closed on Monday. Admission is free.

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