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This special installation created by artist Kate Clark, director of the public art series Parkeology, features twelve plaster life casts—half of which come from the Museum’s collections, and the other half which were created especially for this installation.

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Half of these face casts are a century old

Over a century ago, anthropologists at the Museum of Man and the Smithsonian Institution worked together to collect plaster life casts of different racial “types.” These casts were displayed in San Diego at the 1915 Panama-California Exposition as part of an exhibition about the “progress of man” that presented European Americans as racially superior. Exhibitions like this reinforced racial bias in ways that still impact us today.

 

The other half were made recently

In partnership with the Museum, Kate Clark invited museum visitors to experience what it’s like to have a part of themselves transformed into an artifact. Visitors were invited to sit at a life casting station in the Museum’s rotunda, while Kate and other Parkeologists took molds of their faces. These were then cast in plaster and are being exhibited as artifacts alongside their 1915 predecessors. After the exhibition, the contemporary molds will be returned to their owners.

 

“I wanted this [exhibit] to serve as a way of connecting the dots between how a seemingly inert artifact, that somehow seems like it always belonged in a museum’s archive, to the reality that it came from a living, breathing person, just like us.”

—Kate Clark, artist and director of Parkeology

What is Parkeology?

Parkeology is a public art and webtv series that unearths lesser known sites, stories, and senses of our urban parks. Parkeology partners with museums, archivists, artists, and locals to develop performances, installations, tours, and more. Participants become scouts that snoop, wander, and speculate on park pasts and presences.

Read our blog post to learn more about this project and the face casting process.

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