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Press Release

African-American Scientists Honored with Exploration Place Outdoor Display

January 30, 2023

African-American Scientists Honored with Exploration Place Outdoor Display

WICHITA, Kansas – In collaboration with The Kansas African American Museum, Exploration Place is celebrating Black History Month with a large-scale outdoor display for the second year.

Each night during February, Exploration Place will honor African-American scientists by projecting giant portraits onto the side of its iconic island building. The display will be freely viewable from the Arkansas riverfront path, identified in a recent survey as the busiest pedestrian and bicycle pathway in Wichita. Visitors also may take in the display from inside Exploration Place on Thursday nights, when the museum is open until 8 p.m. Admission is not required to view the display from the Exploration Place promenade.

Visitors are encouraged to visit the display, take and share photos, and use the opportunity to recognize the positive impact of African-American scientists on society. Guests are also invited to stay to watch the nightly 7 p.m. Ring of Fire lighting at the Keeper of the Plains and view 12 riverfront banners featuring a selection of women in STEM careers.

Changing weekly through the month, the display will honor:

  • Feb 1-7: Junius Groves (1859 – 1925), farmer and entrepreneur who was born into slavery and became known as the “Potato King of the World” by optimizing potato growth methods in Edwardsville, Kansas
  • Feb 8-14: Raychelle Burks, associate professor of chemistry at American University and award-winning science communicator who has appeared regularly on TV, film, podcasts and in print
  • Feb 15-21: Ken Carter, professor, clinical psychologist and interim dean of Oxford College of Emory University who studies the lifestyle, psychology and neuroscience behind thrill-seeking behavior
  • Feb 22-28 : June Bacon-Bercey (1928 -2019), native Wichitan and atmospheric scientist who was the first African-American woman to earn a meteorology degree as well as the first to forecast weather on television

“Our goal is to increase appreciation for African Americans’ contributions to STEM,” said Adam Smith, Exploration Place’s President and CEO.

Denise Sherman, executive director of The Kansas African American Museum, noted that June Bacon-Bercey was honored as a 2022 Trailblazer and that there is a permanent display on Junius Groves at the museum.

“Our mission is to make the African American experience resonant to every Kansan,” Sherman said. “This outdoor exhibit is a natural partnership between two organizations where education and discovery are key elements to learning.”

The remaining two honorees are contemporary scientists.

Our individual and collective humanity is best served when we work to make STEM spaces equitable and inclusive so that we have the freedom to pursue our curiosity and bask in wonder of the worlds around us,” said American University’s Burks.

Added Emory University’s Carter: “It’s an honor to be included among the highly accomplished individuals featured in this year’s Exploration Place display. I hope each display brings some well-deserved recognition to the vast contributions African Americans have made—and will continue to make—to all disciplines of science around the country and world.”

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About Exploration Place
The mission of Exploration Place, Kansas’ premier science center, is to inspire a deeper interest in science and technology through creative and fun experiences for all. Exploration Place is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and through 8 p.m. on Thursday evenings. For general information, visit www.exploration.org. For more information about the African American scientists, visit www.exploration.org/bhm or www.tkaamuseum.org.