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"RACE: Are We So Different?"

The Putnam Museum & Science Center wants the public to become part of its newest exhibit, “RACE: Are We So Different?,” which will open in late January.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18, and Saturday, Jan. 19, the Putnam, 1717 W. 12th St., will host an open house to gather information for an Ancestry World Map. Visitors are invited to bring any information they have about their ancestry, including results from DNA-testing companies ancestry.com or 23andMe. The strongest heritage connections will be added to a large-scale world map in the museum’s grand lobby.

Participants in the two-day open house will receive free passes they can use to see the “RACE” exhibit, which will open Jan. 26. The traveling exhibit aims to help visitors of all ages better understand the origins and manifestations of race and racism in everyday life, by investigating race and challenging misconceptions through the framework of science, according to the museum.

The Ancestry World Map will trace local people's ancestries and “show the vast, diverse heritages in the community,” a Putnam release said. Participants will complete forms stating their strongest connections and the source of that data. Open-house visitors also can have a photo taken, if they wish, which will be placed on the map along with their connections.

Once completed, portions of this project will be maintained in the Putnam's permanent archive.

"As more and more Quad-Citians' ancestral heritage is outlined on the giant map in the grand lobby, we'll easily see that we come from everywhere and are connected here," Kim Findlay, Putnam president/CEO, said Wednesday.

Researching ancestry has "had a surge of interest, and I think it's going to be pretty fascinating to create this map of our community, where we all come from," she said, likening it to the black-and-white community photos in the museum's lobby.

"The photo project was very eye-opening about how much we do enjoy as a community getting together and learning about each other," Findlay said. She expects the map will be 24 feet wide and 12 feet wide, and will visually connect each family's country of origin to the Quad-Cities.

"This is a very important exhibit, very enlightening exhibit. It's about all of us," she said. "It's fun to participate in that, look at your ancestry. People of all ages are into it."

Personal ancestry results will go home with the participants. The museum will not keep participants' results; they will only be used to create the lines on the map that represent various ancestries.

Developed by the American Anthropological Association in conjunction with the Science Center of Minnesota and funded by the National Science Foundation and Ford Foundation, the exhibit has been touring the country since it opened in 2007 in St. Paul, Minn.

The look at race and racism in the U.S. uses interactive components, historical artifacts, iconic objects, photos, multimedia presentations and graphic displays, according to understandingrace.org.

For more information on participating in the Ancestry World Map project or the exhibit, visit putnam.org/race.

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