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New exhibition highlights the unsung achievements of female paleontologists
“The Bearded Lady Project” is a traveling exhibition composed of a series of 38 black-and-white portraits taken by photographer Kelsey Vance alongside a short documentary.

WASHINGTON, DC.- The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History is hosting a new exhibition that highlights the unsung achievements of female paleontologists and examines the obstacles they face because of their gender. “Challenging the Face of Science: The Bearded Lady Project” offers visitors the opportunity to see female scientists at work and evaluate societal stereotypes concerning gender and professional roles. The exhibition opens Nov. 14.

“The Bearded Lady Project” is a traveling exhibition composed of a series of 38 black-and-white portraits taken by photographer Kelsey Vance alongside a short documentary. The photographs showcase female paleontologists conducting their research in the field, laboratories, offices and museums. The paleontologists posed for the large-format camera wearing fake beards to challenge the public perception of what a professional scientist looks like.

“Like many of my colleagues, I have encountered gender bias in my career,” said Anna “Kay” Behrensmeyer, curator of fossil vertebrates at the museum and one of the paleontologists featured in the exhibition. “The exhibition provides a way to stand with others, especially early career women confronted with continuing bias, to change assumptions about what paleontologists look like and who they are.”

Born out of a conversation between paleontologist Ellen Currano and filmmaker Lexi Jamieson Marsh, The Bearded Lady Project’s mission is twofold. First, to celebrate the inspirational and adventurous women who choose to dedicate their lives in the search of clues to the history of life on earth. And, second, to educate the public on the inequities and prejudices that still exist science, with special emphasis on the geosciences.

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