“Sorting Out Race,” a traveling exhibition, on view at Chandler Museum

Oct. 3, 2023
display case with vintage objects from Sorting Out Race exhibition

CHANDLER, Ariz. – Thrift stores continually receive a variety of donations. Some of these items have racial imagery including antique advertising cards, collectible salt-and-pepper shakers, vintage children’s books and mugs with sports team mascots. 

The traveling exhibition, “Sorting Out Race,” features more than 100 thrift store donation items that have been collected and will be on display through Jan. 7 at the Chandler Museum. These objects demonstrate the persistence of racial stereotypes and their relation to racism and bias in American society.

“Sorting Out Race” prompts key questions. Are these harmless reminders of past attitudes or do they perpetuate stereotypes about race? Should thrift stores sell these objects? Should they be “sorted out” of the resale environment? The idea for this exhibition arose out of a desire to divert these artifacts from thrift stores to an exhibit that would generate a healthy community conversation about our continuing struggles with race.

A portion of the exhibit is called “Reclaiming Stereotypes,” which provided an opportunity for people of color to remake the social meanings depicted in some of the displayed objects. It also explores the role of antiques and collectibles today. Visitors to the exhibition are invited to share their voice and give input on what items they would be reluctant to donate to a thrift store. Visitors can also provide their ideas for a new name and logo for the Washington, D.C. football team and redesign the Kansas state flag. 

The goal for the exhibition is to provide a safe space for dialogue and to share personal experiences while surrounded by objects and imagery ranging from insensitive depictions to disrespect to the intensely offensive. 

The "Sorting Out Race" exhibit is produced and toured by Kauffman Museum at Bethel College, North Newton Kansas.

Chandler Museum is located 300 S. Chandler Village Drive. It is open Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1-5 p.m. and closed on Mondays. Admission is free. Find more information about the exhibitions and programming online at Chandler Museum or call 480-782-2717. 

Media contact:    
Jillian Nakornthap
Exhibits Curator, Chandler Museum