The Rochester Museum & Science Center will open “The Changemakers: Rochester Women Who Changed the World” on Oct. 9 in the third-floor Riedman Gallery.
This community-curated exhibition aims to inspire and empower the community by sharing stories of regional innovators.
“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,” said Hillary Olson, president and CEO. “The museum is thrilled to make history come alive in this dynamic exhibition.”
“The Changemakers” will share compelling, authentic and often untold narratives of more than 100 regional and Haudenosaunee women. The exhibition celebrates historical and contemporary women from the Rochester region and sovereign Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
To effectively tell these stories, staff at RMSC included the community throughout the planning and curation process.
“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,” said Kathryn Murano Santos, senior director of collections and exhibitions. “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. 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 asked community members to join its newly formed Exhibit Development Committee. This group had a hand in all aspects of the 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 sought help from diversity and inclusion consultants representing Haudenosaunee, African American and Latinx communities. Consultants guided the selection process of the featured women to ensure the stories chosen are 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,” said Irma McClaurin, anthropologist and owner of Irma McClaurin Solutions. “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. 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, staff members and committees 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.
“The exhibit development process has been rich, dynamic and eye-opening, because of the multitude of the perspectives included,” Murano Santos said. “This collaboration with community curators and diversity and inclusion consultants will ensure the exhibition inspires and empowers all visitors to become changemakers.”
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