Last June, the Charleston A.M.E. shootings sent a shockwave through South Carolina. The tragedy shed light on the fact that race is unfortunately still an issue in this state. In response, the South Carolina State Museum has recently opened a new exhibit that hopes to educate people about race, as well as encourage discussion about it. Race: Are We So Different? addresses race from a scientific, historical, and cultural standpoint. It was developed by the American Anthropological Association, in collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota. State Museum officials felt that the Charleston shootings brought social awareness regarding race, which is why it seemed like the ideal time for the exhibit to make its way to South Carolina.
“This exhibit gives people the language and the tools, and hopefully the courage, to talk about it and have that discussion with people they might not have had that discussion with before,” says JoAnn Zeise, South Carolina State Museum’s Curator of History.
The South Carolina State Museum hopes the exhibit sparks conversation about the difficult topic of race for visitors through its compelling displays and interactive features.
When interviewed a few days before the one-year anniversary of the Charleston shootings, Margaret Seidler said she believes the tragedy opened many people’s eyes to South Carolina’s complicated history with racism. "We are shining a light on our blind spots as human beings and growing together,” the fifth-generation Charlestonian says. "There's a lot of work to be done."
The exhibit is composed of three sections: Science, History, and Everyday Experiences. Together, they unpack the current understanding visitors may have about race and challenge them to look at it from a new perspective. Because it’s a traveling exhibit, it will only remain in Columbia until September.