- Associated Press - Friday, January 14, 2011

BOSTON (AP) — One display shows photographs of people’s faces and asks viewers to identify them by race. Another includes an interactive survey asking participants which nationalities they believe are classified as white. Another booth allows visitors to place their hands under a screen to determine how the their skin color compares with others.

They’re all part of an interactive, multimedia exhibit on race scheduled to run from Sunday through May 15 at Boston’s Museum of Science. Organizers of “RACE: Are We So Different?” describe it as a traveling exhibit that uses video, still photography and interactive activities to explore race as a sociological phenomenon and how it has shaped society.

Paul Fontaine, the museum’s vice president of education, said the exhibit tries to show that the impact of race is strong and has shaped the nation through its history.

“When you think about race, it’s very powerful, it’s very emotional,” said Fontaine. “But from a scientific perspective, there’s no scientific basis for race.”

Fontaine said the exhibit uses science to debunk common myths about race and investigates various historical events that reinforced racial tensions in the United States.

Also included as part of the exhibit is a local art project called “Voices Without Faces, Voices Without Races: An Audio Journey.” That project, scheduled to open Feb. 3, features voices of around 250 people who live along Route 28, a highway that passes through many racially diverse communities in the Boston area. Sound artist Halsey Burgund collected the voices from residents who each talk about how they view issues around race.

Nina Catubig Nolan, chair of the museum’s RACE education team, said the project developed after the museum invited 150 community organizations to talk about the RACE exhibit. She said the groups wanted “Boston’s voice” to be reflected.

“So we found a road where many people live along but have different experiences,” said Nolan. “We gathered all those voices and put them together in this voice collage.”

During a recent preview of the exhibit, students from the Community Charter School of Cambridge were invited to view the displays and participate in the multimedia interactives. Sylvia Sanchez, 15, a 10th grader who is the daughter of a black father and mother from Trinidad, said the exhibit “opened her eyes” to the complexity of race and how it affects everyone. For example, she did not know that the full story of slavery was often absent in college history classes, as one display suggested.

“I’m starting to realize the impact of telling the whole story,” said Sanchez. “We should talk about it, even though it may be hurtful.”

Admission to the RACE exhibit is included with the museum’s regular admission. The exhibit, which has been shown in other museums in Cleveland, Detroit, and San Antonio, Texas, was created by the Science Museum of Minnesota in conjunction with the American Anthropological Association.

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