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Media Room - Noyce Foundation's Bright Lights Community Engagement Competition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 20, 2014

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Media Contacts
Kim Ramsden, PR Director, (651) 221-9423
Sarah Imholte, PR Coordinator, (651) 221-9412

SCIENCE MUSEUM OF MINNESOTA RECOGNIZED BY THE NOYCE FOUNDATION FOR OUTSTANDING COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT WITH THE RACE: ARE WE SO DIFFERENT? EXHIBITION

St. Paul, Minn. – The Science Museum of Minnesota is one of seven museums to be recognized in the Noyce Foundation's Bright Lights Community Engagement competition. The foundation specifically commends the Science Museum's development and implementation of the RACE: Are We So Different? traveling exhibition, which debuted at the Science Museum in 2007 and has since been visited by more than 4 million people in 51 museums around the United States. It will return to the Science Museum for an encore engagement in fall of 2015.

The RACE exhibition, created in partnership with the American Anthropological Association, features photography, hands-on activities, and multimedia components that challenge visitors to examine race and racism in the United States. The goal of the exhibition is not only to instruct and enlighten visitors, but to provide a starting point for a community dialogue about an issue that touches visitors' lives every day.

Bright Lights Community Engagement Competition
The Science Museum was one of 94 applicants for the Noyce Foundation's Bright Lights award. After three rounds of judging, a panel of 15 expert judges selected seven organizations for being truly exceptional in the depth, breadth, and impact of their community outreach work. According to the Noyce Foundation in its announcement of the award winners, the Science Museum's "quality handling of a difficult topic has spurred other museums to use the exhibition and its approaches as a fulcrum for discussion and attitudinal change in their local communities. This is an especially courageous, high-impact community engagement topic, atypical of a science center, stirring people to engage in one of the country's biggest issues."

"We are extremely honored to be recognized for our work with the RACE exhibition," says Dr. Eric J. Jolly, president of the Science Museum of Minnesota. "The fact that the Noyce Foundation – widely known for its efforts to help guide young people to be curious, thoughtful and engaged learners – values the project's relevance and admires the Science Museum's efforts to bring people together to talk about it speaks to our commitment to being facilitators of conversations about important community issues."

"RACE is a project of which we are all exceptionally proud," says Joanne Jones-Rizzi, the Science Museum's director of community engagement. "It has demonstrated the possibilities for a museum exhibition to serve as a forum for community engagement about a topic on which science has an important perspective. We were thrilled with – and overwhelmed by – the community's response to the exhibition, and it is very gratifying to see it similarly engaging individuals and communities in its travels across the country."

The Science Museum of Minnesota's RACE exhibition created a museum experience that drew in its community in new and innovative ways.

To that end, the Science Museum:

  • engaged a Community Advisory Group of thoughtful and committed individuals who provided guidance and context throughout the exhibit development process and promoted the exhibition enthusiastically in their communities;
  • developed an extensive array of lectures, workshops and community conversations about the exhibition, both on- and off-site;
  • recruited and trained community members to facilitate Talking Circles. Borrowing a process developed by the Minnesota Department of Corrections in accordance with the ancient native peacekeeping circle tradition, Talking Circles provided a safe and respectful space for discussion about the ways in which race and racism in each participant's home, school, family of origin, and community;
  • developed original live theater presentations to complement the exhibition and provide another launching point for community discussions;
  • created programming partnerships with community organizations like the Minneapolis Foundation, the Saint Paul Foundation, and Saint Paul Companies, as well as with other formal and informal education organizations in the community, including the Walker Art Center, Penumbra Theater, Macalester College, and more.

The Science Museum of Minnesota is one of the nation's most prolific producers of original science exhibits. Drawing on research from the museum's own staff, as well as the research of its prestigious research partners, Science Museum exhibit developers, designers, and technicians have created exhibits that have been enjoyed by close to 36 million visitors in 114 cities in the United States and abroad. For more information or to plan a Science Museum visit, visit www.smm.org or call (651) 221-9444.

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Please note: Images from RACE: Are We So Different? are available. Contact Sarah Imholte (simholte@smm.org or 651-221-9412) for access.