Fact Sheets

"Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation"

March 1, 2014

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center is organizing the Smithsonian’s first in-depth examination into the history of Indian Americans in the U.S. . The exhibit opened Feb. 27 and will be on display through Aug. 16, 2015. A traveling version of the exhibition will go to libraries, community centers and museums through the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service beginning May 2015 for four years.

Exhibit Facts

  • “Beyond Bollywood” is a 5,000-square-foot exhibition in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History chronicling the cultural, political and professional contributions of Indian immigrants and Indian Americans to the U.S.; it will run from Feb. 27 through Aug. 16, 2015, and a traveling version of the exhibition will tour around the country from May 2015 through 2019.
  • The exhibition has seven sections: Migration; Early Immigration; Working Lives; Arts and Activism; Yoga, Religion & Spirituality; Cultural Contributions in Food, Music, Dance and Groundbreakers.
  • “Beyond Bollywood” is part of the Indian American Heritage Project of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. IAHP began in 2008 and included a nationwide effort to collect stories, photographs, artifacts, art and documents.

Highlighted Artifacts

  • Dress worn by First Lady Michelle Obama to the 2012 National Governors Association Dinner, designed by Indian American Naeem Khan
  • Mohini Bhardwaj’s Olympic Silver Medal (gymnastics, 2004)
  • Brandon Chillar’s football helmet from the 2011 Superbowl-winning Green Bay Packers
  • Trophy of first Indian American National Spelling Bee winner Balu Natarajan (1985)
  • Campaign materials of Congressman Dalip Singh Saund (first person of Indian and Asian origin, and non-Abrahamic faith), from the collection of the National Museum of American History
  • Turban of Balbir Singh Sodhi, first person of South Asian origin to be murdered in an act of retaliation after Sept. 11, 2001
  • First doctor bag of Abraham Verghese, MD, author of My Own Country, The Tennis Partner and Cutting for Stone

Featured Artists and Celebrities

  • Artists featured in the exhibition include Chiraag Bhakta and Mark Hewko, Anjali Bhargava and Swati Khurana, Anujan Ezhikode, Ruee Gawarikar, Suraiya Nathani Hossain, Corky Lee, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Preston Merchant, John Merrell, Sabelo Narasimhan, Sejal Patel, Mohanpreet Singh, Vinay Srinivasan and Asha Puthli
  • Celebrities featured in the exhibition include Ravi Shankar (musician), Vijay Iyer (musician), Anoushka Shankar (Musician), Karsh Kale (musician), Sarita Choudhury (actor), Kal Penn (actor), Mindy Kaling (actor), Siddhartha Mukherjee (Pulitzer Prize Winner), Nina Davuluri (Miss America 2013), Meena Alexander (poet), Shailja Patel (poet), Bharati Mukherjee (author), Floyd Cardoz (chef) and Madhur Jaffrey (chef)

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Emily Grebenstein               
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DJ Rekha with headphones
Related photos: 

Beyond Bollywood - Dalip Singh Saund

Beyond Bollywood - Dalip Singh Saund

Photo courtesy of Eric Saund

Congressman Dalip Singh Saund, with Senators John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, 1958. On Feb.

Beyond Bollywood - DJ Rekha

Beyond Bollywood - DJ Rekha

Photo courtesy of Eco Magazine

DJ, producer, and activist Rekha Malhotra, popularly known as DJ Rekha, is credited with popularizing bhangra (Punjabi folk music) in America. On Feb.

Beyond Bollywood - Sharma Family in San Francisco

Sharma Family in San Francisco

Photo: Prithvi Sharma

The Sharma family in San Francisco, 1983. On Feb.

Beyond Bollywood - Worker Harvesting Beets

Beyond Bollywood - Worker Harvesting Beets

Photo courtesy of the California State University, Chico, Meriam Library Special Collections

An Indian immigrant worker harvests beets in Hamilton City, California for the Sacramento Valley Sugar Company, c. 1907-1915. On Feb.