About The Initiative

The concept of race is embedded in many aspects of American life and impacts our laws and traditions, cultural affiliations and educational systems. It shapes how we see ourselves and are seen by others. To clarify what race is and is not, the American Anthropology Association (AAA) has developed an exhibition, RACE: Are We So Different?, to help individuals understand the contemporary science of human variation; the unique American history of race; and the current cultural experiences and perspectives of race. In June 2011 the exhibition will open at the Museum of Natural History and be on view until December 2011.

RACE: Are We So Different?, an exhibition opening at the National Museum of Natural History in June 2011, will provide a context for engaging the public in the critical and difficult issues surrounding diversity by focusing programs on the tangible context of race. The exhibit provides a platform for initiating programming that invites audiences to actively participate in conversations around this vital topic. The Smithsonian Associates will take the lead in establishing a new collaborative program planning process that supports partnerships across the Smithsonian, leverages audiences historically isolated in individual units, and provides a cost-effective marketing plan. Program planning will include aggregating a combination of at least two exhibitions and fourteen programs presented by a minimum of nine units of the Smithsonian Institution.

This single initiative will benefit both the audience in our own back yard and the Smithsonian Institution largely. By instigating a genuine collaborative planning process to develop programming for the Race exhibition we will establish a sustainable working methodology to support pan-institutional consortium programming moving forward, and by taking advantage of the science presented in the exhibition, model respectful and responsible public discourse on the important issue of race in a way that only the Smithsonian can.

The pan-Smithsonian platform on race addresses two of the Smithsonian's Grand Challenges: the American Experience and Valuing World Cultures. The Museum of Natural History and its partners are seeking a Grand Challenge Level 2 award in the amount of $229,850 to maximize the resources of the Institution for programming that will engage the public with Smithsonian-wide content on topics of race and diversity. The goals of the project are:

  1. To promote the Smithsonian as an organization whose work addresses critical problems of the world and provides a national model for fostering respectful public discourse on challenging issues, such as race;
  2. To increase the capacity of Smithsonian staff to dismantle the boundaries between the museums by instigating a genuine collaborative planning process to develop programming that establishes a sustainable working methodology to support pan-institutional consortia programming;
  3. To create programming that engages the diverse communities of the National Capital Region (NCR), broadens access to and fosters new relationships with the local audiences transcending race, ethnicity, class, culture, and age. The NCR mirrors the societal changes that will be the pattern for the 21st century.