Families can visit MTCC's new exhibit "Same, Different, Amazing!" in early fall 2021.

Mosaic Templars Cultural Center (MTCC) has some big news for Little Rock families. We chatted with Christina Shutt, MTCC director, for more details.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your role at MTCC?
I’m the director at MTCC, a role I’ve had since June 2016. I’m responsible for the overall vision and planning for MTCC and recently led the museum through first-time national museum accreditation, which made MTCC only the ninth Black culture museum in the United States to receive this designation. I hold two master’s degrees in Archival Management and History from Simmons University. At home, I’m the proud mom of a 7-year-old little boy and wife to John.

What is your favorite way to celebrate Black History Month with kids?
This Black History Month, I’ll be celebrating through live, virtual storytime at 7 p.m. every Thursday on Facebook. I plan to share my favorite children’s books. You can be a part of our storytime by following Mosaic Templars Cultural Center on Facebook or subscribing to our channel on YouTube.

Can you tell us about the “Same, Different, Amazing!” exhibit?
“Same, Different, Amazing!” is an exhibit designed to give parents and caregivers the tools to talk with their children about diversity and to foster dialogue in the community. It’s the first permanent museum exhibit of its kind in the United States that focuses on children while empowering parents and caregivers to talk about race and what makes every person amazing.

Can you share your top tip for starting those conversations about diversity with kids?
As a parent myself, I start conversations with my son by using teachable moments, like talking about people in his storybooks who look like him or who don’t. Asking children questions when they notice differences and leaning into those moments to explore their thought processes can help them make sense of their observations and be crucial to starting discussions.

When can families visit the new exhibit?
The exhibit will open in early fall 2021. Beyond the physical exhibition housed at MTCC, we will unveil resources and other components to take the dialog outside of MTCC. This includes creating virtual content and conversation guides. These components will supplement and extend visits to the museum.

Can you give us a sneak peek of what it will be like to experience the exhibit?
From the moment you step into the exhibit, you’ll be surrounded with a diverse neighborhood and scenes that may be familiar to kids. This includes colorful murals, a three-dimensional tree with fingerprints as leaves and a child-sized storyboard. The exhibit encourages interaction and play and is being designed as an intergenerational family space for engagement.

What part of the exhibit are you most excited to share with Arkansas families?
I’m most excited about sharing the neighborhood characters with Arkansas families! We’ve endeavored to help all children see themselves in the museum when they visit because we know representation matters. My hope is children will be able to connect with the exhibit and museum in a personal way that emphasizes no matter what they look like, bring or do, they are amazing.

What other updates are in store for MTCC?
We’re installing an immersive, 360-degree video experience for all visitors that will help illustrate how African American history is woven into the past, present and future of Arkansas. In addition to this, we are planning for our next traveling exhibit about The Negro Motorist Greenbook from the Smithsonian Institution. The exhibit will be open to the public from May 8, 2021 to Aug. 1, 2021 and will focus on the history of Black family travel.

During the construction, can families and teachers still bring kids to visit MTCC?
Absolutely! The museum is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. We have a wealth of online programming available in addition to posters and teacher resources for those who may not be able to travel to the museum at this time. You also can keep up with us on social media platforms, including Facebook, or sign up for our newsletter and receive all the latest at mosaictemplarscenter.com.

How can Arkansas families support MTCC as they build and develop this exhibit?
We are incredibly fortunate to have received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services that is supporting the development of the “Same, Different, Amazing!” exhibit. However, we need the public’s help to fully realize our vision for an inclusive and dynamic museum that tells more of the Arkansas story. Our current permanent exhibition is in need of updates, and the museum needs to upgrade its collections, artifacts, exhibitions and interactive technology museum wide. To do this, we need about $1.3 million. We rely on direct and indirect support from the public. For those looking to give financially, please contact Director of Development Jaimie Wright at jaimie.wright@arkansas.gov.