What do antiques and collectibles with racial imagery teach us about racism? Does old stuff matter?

Every day thrift stores across America receive donations of objects that display racial imagery— antique advertising cards, collectible salt-and-pepper shakers, vintage children’s books, and mugs with sports team mascots. Are these objects harmless reminders of historical attitudes or do they continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes about race? Should thrift stores sell these objects? Or should they be “sorted out” of the resale environment and discarded?

Sorting Out Race arose out of a desire to divert artifacts with racial content from thrift stores to an exhibit that would generate a healthy community conversation about racial stereotypes past and present in order to heighten awareness of our continuing struggles with race.



  • What is race and how is racial identity shaped?
  • What is a stereotype and what is a racial stereotype?
  • What is racism and how do racial stereotypes perpetuate systems of dominance and privilege?


Exhibit Support
Kauffman Museum Association
Fransen Family Foundation
Schowalter Foundation
Newton Et Cetera Shop Local Giving Grant
Kansas Humanities Council, a non-profit cultural organization dedicated to promoting humanities programs across Kansas.


Original Exhibit Concept by Leia Lawrence.

Exhibition designed and produced by Kauffman Museum at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas. The exhibit team: Nicole Eitzen, Jake Harris, David Kreider, Annette LeZotte, Paloma Olais, Rachel Pannabecker, Chuck Regier.

Kauffman Museum gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the many individuals who shaped our thinking during exhibition development, including our humanities consultant Dr. Robert E. Weems, Jr.

2018 Leadership in History Award

View Sorting Out Race Online

What do antiques and collections with racial imagery teach us about racism? This presentation is an abbreviated version of Sorting Out Race: Examining Racial Identity and Stereotypes in Thrift Store Donations, a traveling exhibition designed and produced by Kauffman Museum at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas. Immerse yourself in the Sorting Out Race interactive, part of Kauffman Museum’s #MuseumAtHome initiative. 

In the style of Kauffman Museum exhibitions, you can tour linearly or explore the exhibit compelled by your interests. For the best experience:

Choose to view the presentation in Fullscreen on your desktop browser
Click the forward arrow
  at the bottom of the window to move linearly through the exhibit topics
Click the back arrow  to return to a previous topic
Circles are exhibit topics and can be clicked on to move forward. However, you might have to manually return to a previous section. 

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