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


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