Hennepin History Museum’s upcoming exhibition, Owning Up: Racism and Housing in Minneapolis explores the history of racial housing discrimination in Minneapolis through the stories of three black families. The exhibit,  guest curated by students in the University of Minnesota’s Heritage Studies and Public History (HSPH) program, demonstrates the lasting effects of structural discrimination and aims to counter the enduring idea of Minneapolis as a model metropolis. It is part of the Racism, Rent, and Real Estate series commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. The Act sought to eliminate barriers to home and property ownership by non-whites. The exhibit draws on research from Mapping Prejudice.

How does an exhibition like this come together? Owning Up represents the work of many community partners. It was curated by Denise Pike and Kacie Lucchini Butcher, University of Minnesota HSPH graduate students. Denise and Kacie worked closely with Augsburg University students through Augsburg’s Design & Agency program. Their work has also been heavily informed by conversations with community members, including Sabathani Community Center in South Minneapolis.

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Conversation about Owning Up; curators Denise and Kacie are in the center, rear. Members of the Augsburg design team are in the foreground.

Creating a museum exhibition takes a tremendous amount of work. Every element requires thought and decisions. All exhibitions – including this one – have limitations. Space, time, and money are big ones, but there are a million other things to consider. How to arrange the information? What to highlight and what to leave out (recognizing that there will always be more to say)? How to distill large, complex ideas into an exhibition panel with a tight word limit? How to encourage conversation and reflection on topics like race and racism past and present? On the design side, what is the color scheme, and why does it matter? How can the layout and design further the exhibit’s message? And on a practical side, can visitors move around freely? Is the font readable? The curatorial team and their partners have spent their summer working through these types of questions.

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Greg Denofrio (U of MN) and Kirsten Delegard (Mapping Prejudice) review sample panels


In July, Denise, Kacie, and the Augsburg design team invited stakeholders to a design workshop. Representatives from Hennepin History Museum, multiple departments from both Augsburg University and the University of Minnesota, Sabathani Community Center, and other community partners were there to preview mock ups of the exhibition design and to provide feedback.

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Reviewing layout with Augsburg University’s Design & Agency student design team

The curatorial and design team then took the questions, comments, and suggestions, and further refined their work. Visitors will see the results — and be able to provide your own thoughts and opinions — when the exhibition opens to the public on August 22. We look forward to sharing this exhibition with you later this month.

Owning Up will be open from August 22, 2018 through January 20, 2019. We expect large crowds for the first week; you can reserve advanced tickets here