“RACE: Are We So Different?“ Review - Seeing Race Differently

Chicagoland residents and visitors have a very special opportunity.  An exhibition that has been traveling around the country, “RACE: Are We So Different?“, opens at the Illinois Holocaust Museum on Sunday, October 12th 2014 and will run through January 25, 2015.  It opens with a flourish, a full day of family activities are scheduled from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm. This exhibit is compelling and fascinating.


Visiting the exhibition in advance of the opening, I had an opportunity to meet and talk with some of the individuals who were involved in bringing this exhibition to the Illinois Holocaust Museum.  This exhibition is co-presented by the YWCA Evanston/North Shore at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Educational Center.  Interestingly, Eileen Hogan Heineman, Racial Justice Program Director, YWCA Evanston/North Shore and Arielle Weininger, Chief Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, Illinois Holocaust Museum became aware of this traveling exhibition at about the same time, in 2010.  They both felt that the exhibition fit clearly into their mission statements and were anxious to bring it to their facilities.


However, the exhibition can’t be shown within a fifty-mile radius of any site where it is previously been shown.  This situation sowed the seeds for a perfect collaboration; the YWCA Evanston/North Shore has terrific outreach experience and the Illinois Holocaust Museum was a proven venue with space and exhibition experience.


Planning began in June 2011 but this exhibition is so well attended and popular that October 12, 2014 was the first date it was available.  This subject matter promises to attract many visitors.  Currently, 5000 students are signed up to visit the exhibition and include  Evanston School District students in grades 6, 7, 8, in middle school and freshmen, sophomores and juniors at Evanston Township High School.



The American Anthropological Association in collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota developed this exhibition, which first opened in 2007.  A book by the same name was published in 2012, which is displayed at the exhibition and is available for purchase at the gift shop. This is the first national exhibition to tell the stories of race from the biological, cultural, and historical points of view. Combining these perspectives offers an unprecedented look at race and racism in the United States.  Eileen Hogan Heineman pointed out that, “The exhibit provides people who have thought about race every day of their life as well as those who never have to think about it, an opportunity to look at race from the scientific, historic, and lived experience- all in one place.”


I found the exhibition captivating.  There were several videos that each had individuals telling stories related to race but with different insights and perspectives.  The large photos told powerful stories, too. Other displays were easy to grasp and interesting.  I found that there were several parts of the presented material that were completely new to me, which surprised me. It is designed to reach a broad audience that includes young children.


Meeting Susan Abrams, Chief Executive Officer, Illinois Holocaust Museum and Karen Singer, Chief Executive Officer, YWCA and observing the delight they appeared to experience in working together, I wonder in what new direction this partnership may lead.


Related activities are being offered through out the larger community and include Northwestern University adopting the book, "RACE: Are We So Different?" as their One Northwestern – One Book program.  Loyola University has related activities also as do many local libraries and several local theaters. For more information " RACE: Are We So Different?" Community Programming Go the YWCA Evanston/North Shore website or calendar, or the Illinois Holocaust Museum website


RACE is funded by Ford Foundation and National Science Foundation. The local exhibition at the Illinois Holocaust Museum is made possible by Presenting Sponsor Allstate Insurance Company and Co-Sponsor Walgreens and Participating Sponsor Northwestern University. Additional support is being provided by Bank of America, BMO Harris Bank and the Evanston Community Foundation and Loyola University Chicago. The Golder Family Foundation is lead sponsor for all Illinois Holocaust Museum special exhibitions.

Co-Presented by: Illinois Holocaust Museum and YWCA Evanston/north shore

Photos: B. Keer




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