’Sorting Out Race’ topic of library, museum discussion

Chad Frey
"Sorting Out Race: Examining Racial Identity and Stereotypes in Thrift Store Donations" reopened as Kauffman Museum's special exhibit Aug. 28 and will remain through Nov. 29. It will be the topic of a community conversation hosted by the museum and Newton Public Library.

"Sorting Out Race: A Community Conversation," a joint effort of Newton Public Library and the Kauffman Museum, will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 26

The community conversation will be hosted online using Zoom.

“We hope the central Kansas community can use ‘Sorting Out Race’ to facilitate difficult community conversations,” said Andi Schmidt Andres when the traveling exhibit returned home in August.

Museum staff added to the exhibit as it has been at the museum.

“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 such questions 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, traveling to 11 sites from Indiana to the West Coast.

During the Oct. 26 event, Sheryl Wilson, executive director of the Kansas Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution; Leia Lawrence, former manager of the Newton Et Cetera Shop; and Ray Olais, local historian and retired Newton High School art teacher, will share their thoughts on items from the exhibit. A community discussion and Q&A will follow.

Registration for the Zoom event can be done at https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_8w1tVS3vQZSjalHPAAK73Q.

The original exhibit team was then-Bethel student and 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.