‘Human computers’ in skirts showcased at Hampton History Museum

By Montana S. Crider

On Saturday, Jan. 21, the Hampton History Museum will open the "When the Computer Wore a Skirt: NASA's Human Computers" exhibit to the public. Earlier this month, over 200 people visited the museum for the book signing of Margot Lee Shetterly's "Hidden Figures," which is the inspiration for this exhibit.

The display will give the history and share the story of Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson and Hampton native Mary Jackson, the "human computers" who helped shape how African-American women are seen in the science field today.

"We do not see a lot of women taking on roles in STEM majors, and I think 'Hidden Figures' will inspire a lot of young girls to follow that path," said Morgan Harris, a Hampton University accounting major from New Haven, Connecticut. "This exhibit is another outlet for sharing the history of African-American women that many of us are not told."

The Hampton History Museum has many exhibits that continue to educate the Hampton area on history that is not taught in schools.

Toni Alford, a Virginia native and resident, commended the Hampton History Museum for having exhibits that teach the unspoken: "I come to the Hampton University Museum and the downtown Hampton museum very often, and every time, I learn something new. Who knows, I may learn something that I did not quite catch in the movie or book."

However, Hampton residents are not the only ones looking forward to witnessing the new exhibit. Some Hampton U. students are planning their visits to the Hampton History Museum now. Many have, and many have not seen the movie or read the book, but are looking forward to broadening their knowledge of the so-called human computers.

"I am seeing 'Hidden Figures' this weekend, but I am going to the exhibit first," said Ashanti Barrett, a MBA student from Brooklyn. "My friends think it will ruin the movie, but it will only make it better for me. It is such an inspiring story that I can not get enough of."

Raven Able of Columbia, South Carolina, another Hampton U. student, said of the movie, "I felt many different emotions when watching "Hidden Figures." It was an emotional experience where I felt both empowered and anxious. There were many scenes where I could not help but wonder what kept them going even through such treatment."

"Hidden Figures" tells the story of three women who have now inspired mass audiences and the Hampton History Museum will keep that story alive with its new exhibit, "When the Computer Wore a Skirt: NASA's Human Computers."

The Hampton History Museum, located at 120 Old Hampton Lane, welcomes the public to view the display, opening Jan. 21. For additional information, contact the museum at 757-727-1610.

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

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