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Touring exhibit on bias stops at Science Center of Iowa

DES MOINES — The Science Center of Iowa is one of the first in the nation to host a touring exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution called, “The Bias Inside Us.”

Center spokeswoman Emilee Richardson says as our country grapples with issues like diversity, equity, and inclusion, it’s critical to find new ways to understand and seek solutions. She says one part of the exhibit features everyday objects, like a notebook, to demonstrate bias.

“For instance, with the notebook, it is designed for right-handed people. Left-handed people struggle to use notebooks and not smear their ink all over their paper and all sorts of different things,” Richardson says. “Another is soap dispensers. Automatic soap dispensers don’t always recognize dark skin. These are things that have a significant impact on large groups of people.”

The Des Moines facility is perhaps best known for exhibits that showcase dinosaurs, the weather, or space exploration, but on occasion, the exhibits will branch off and take us out of our comfort zones — in order to look inward. “We at the Science Center strive to present our audiences with new ideas that stretch their ways of thinking and encourage thoughtful conversation,” Richardson says. “‘The Bias Inside Us’ is an exhibit that does just that. It helps us be reflective on our own lives and spark those conversations about how we can create a more welcoming place for everyone.”

The exhibit features compelling images, hands-on interactives, and powerful testimonials and videos. There are hard topics we have to face as a society today, and Richardson says the exhibit helps visitors to understand those topics and learn to be able to discuss them.

“The exhibit does a great job of not labeling anyone as racist or sexist. It’s not about making you feel bad about your biases. It’s about helping you understand that these are things that exist,” she says. “Biases are human. It’s a natural, normal thing for our brains to create shortcuts and help us understand the world around us. Not all biases are bad.” We’re a product of our environment yet we can “retrain our brain,” Richardson says, to reflect, adjust and move forward in the world.

The exhibit is on its fourth stop of a four-year, 40-city tour. It will only be in Des Moines through August 8th.


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