Christened ‘Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation’, the exhibition opening at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History is aimed at deepening the understanding of the community.
Spread over 5,000-square-foot, the year-long exhibition will explore the heritage, daily experience and diverse contributions of the community members to the American society.
The highlighted artifacts include a dress worn by First Lady Michelle Obama designed by Indian-American Naeem Khan; the 1985 National Spelling Bee trophy awarded to the first Indian American winner, Balu Natarajan; and Mohini Bhardwaj’s 2004 Olympic Silver Medal for gymnastics.
“This wonderful exhibition deepens our understanding of the American experience as lived by the Asian Pacific American communities who have journeyed from being exotic outsiders to being the faces and voices of the future. We are excited to present an exhibition that we hope will excite and inspire generations,” said Konrad Ng, director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.
The exhibition recognises approximately 17 million people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in the country, whose number is expected to climb to 41 million by 2050. One in every 100 Americans has a family connection to India.
Through a rich collection of photographs, artifacts, art and interactive learning stations, visitors will experience the Indian-American story and explore the many dynamic roles the community members have played in shaping America.
Masum Momaya, curator at the Asian Pacific American Center, said that after going on display for at least a year at the museum, the exhibition will travel for up to five years with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.
“Beyond Bollywood” is the first major national exhibition to focus on Indians in America.
“Despite the fact that Indians have been here since 1790 and now number more than 3 million, we’ve been largely left out of this country’s history,” she said.
“Beyond Bollywood marks a significant step toward not only documenting the history of Indians in America but also imprinting this history onto the collective conscience of this country,” she added.
Visitors, she said, will be surprised to learn that the first person of Indian-origin to set foot on Indian soil came in 1790, just 14 years after this country was founded.