The Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC) hosted a virtual event this morning announcing a new exhibition opening at the Museum in October. The Changemakers: Rochester Women Who Changed the World i s a community-curated exhibition which aims to inspire and empower the community by sharing stories of regional innovators.
During the event, RMSC shared that The Changemakers will be open to the public on October 9, 2020, in the Riedman Gallery on the third floor of the Museum.
“RMSC holds robust collections from Rochester’s history and has the unique capability to tell the stories of these innovators and changemakers in a way that engages, excites, and informs all visitors. The Museum is thrilled to make history come alive in this dynamic exhibition,” said Hillary Olson, President and CEO of RMSC.
The Changemakers will share compelling, authentic, and often untold narratives of more than one hundred regional and Haudenosaunee women. The exhibition celebrates both historical and contemporary women from the Rochester Region and sovereign Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
To effectively tell these stories, the staff at RMSC included the community throughout the planning and curation process. RMSC is one of few museums that has utilized a community curation model that includes shared authority for decision-making.
“We wanted The Changemakers to go beyond the standard narrative to highlight the life and work of women whose stories haven’t always been celebrated. Historic and contemporary women of all backgrounds have made really important contributions that impact all aspects of our lives, and it’s critical to acknowledge that in public spaces like museums,” said Kathryn Murano Santos, Senior Director of Collections and Exhibitions at RMSC. “By partnering with a diverse group of community members to shape all aspects of the exhibition – from the concept to the unveiling of the final product – everyone will be able to see themselves in this exhibition.”
To ensure the new exhibition has equitable and authentic representation of the entire community, RMSC formed an Exhibit Development Committee composed of community members.
The Exhibit Development Committee had a hand in all aspects of the exhibition planning process, including determining what stories to tell, what women to feature, and how each story should be represented in the exhibition.
“Being involved in The Changemakers community curation process has been especially satisfying to me,” said Rachel DeGuzman, CEO of 21st Century Arts. “I am often called upon to share my expertise regarding equity in the arts, and the processes and outcomes don’t always reflect diversity and inclusion. In this case, both the staff and diverse members of the community embraced an equitable and fluid process which, if more widely adopted, will be a game changer.”
RMSC also sought help from three diversity and inclusion consultants representing Haudenosaunee, African American, Latinx communities. This was made possible through grant funding from the Rochester Area Community Foundation. The consultants guided the selection process of the featured women to ensure the stories chosen are truly representative of the Rochester community.
“The way in which we diversity consultants were able to share our knowledge and expertise-- which augmented the earlier work done by the community-based Take It Down Planning Committee-- helped change everyone’s mind about what the exhibition should look like. Our work as Diversity and Inclusion consultants is necessary to help change the behavior of museums that have relied solely upon its own experts, who historically have been white,” said Dr. Irma McClaurin, Activist, Anthropologist, and Owner of Irma McClaurin Solutions. “Through this profound collaboration, I believe we have created a unique and transformative exhibition on women. It will serve as a beacon of hope and a concrete example of the power and necessity of weaving diversity, equity, and inclusion into every aspect of society.”
To further expand diversity and inclusion efforts, the staff and committees also sought help and guidance from women within Rochester’s Asian community.
RMSC worked with more than 15 local organizations and over 50 individuals from the community to help bring The Changemakers to life.
Community curation is a new kind of exhibition development process that museums across the country are still learning to implement. Despite the new obstacles they might face, RMSC staff knew they needed the help of the Rochester community to develop a narrative that everyone could see themselves in.
“The exhibit development process has been rich, dynamic, and eye-opening because of the multitude of the perspectives included. This collaboration with community curators and diversity and inclusion consultants will ensure the exhibition inspires and empowers all visitors to become changemakers,” said Murano Santos.
RMSC will share more details about this exhibition, from the women featured to the activities available, in the coming months before the exhibition opening in October.
The remote exhibition announcement was recorded and is available on RMSC’s YouTube Channel. For more information about the exhibition, visit RMSC.org/changemakers.
This exhibition is supported by James Bruen & Jane Plitt, and Optic Sky Productions. Please contact Katie Mackey, Corporate and Foundation Relations Manager at RMSC: firstname.lastname@example.org or 585.697.1973.