COVID-19 is bringing home one of Kauffman Museum’s exhibits on a topic that couldn’t be more timely.


"Sorting Out Race: Examining Racial Identity and Stereotypes in Thrift Store Donations" reopened as the museum’s special exhibit Aug. 28 and will remain through Nov. 29.


Five years ago, the museum at Bethel College debuted "Sorting Out Race," based on an exhibit concept by Leia Lawrence, a former manager at the Newton Et Cetera Shop.


Every day, thrift stores across the United States receive donations of objects that display racial imagery – from antique advertising cards to collectible salt-and-pepper shakers, from vintage children’s books to mugs, glasses and clothing with sports team mascots.


"Sorting Out Race" was developed to examine questions such as: Are these objects harmless reminders of historical attitudes or do they continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes about race? Should thrift stores sell them, or should they be "sorted out" of the resale environment and discarded?


After it was first displayed at Kauffman Museum, "Sorting Out Race" was converted to a traveling exhibit and went on the road.


Museum director Andi Schmidt Andres said, "Since its completion five years ago, "Sorting Out Race" has traveled to 11 sites from Indiana to the West Coast.


"Museum staff are making additions to the exhibit to reflect current social issues and related topics in the news – rebranding and sports teams – reminding us that racism and stereotypes are current and evolving topics.


"A space opened up in the exhibit’s traveling schedule, thanks to COVID-19, and ‘Sorting Out Race’ will come home for a few months.


"We hope the central Kansas community can use ‘Sorting Out Race’ to facilitate difficult community conversations."


The original exhibit team was then-Bethel student, now graduate, Nicole Eitzen, North Newton resident Paloma Olais, Kauffman Museum exhibit technician David Kreider, Kauffman Museum curator of exhibits Chuck Regier, then-director Annette LeZotte, retired director Rachel Pannabecker, and Wichita State University student Jake Harris.


Regular Kauffman Museum hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; and closed Mondays and major holidays.