The following text is from the September 2012 issue of India Review, a publication of the Embassy of India, Washington, D.C.
In September 2013, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program will open Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation, at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in Washington, D.C. Beyond Bollywood will celebrate the history, art, and culture of Indian immigrants and Indian Americans, and showcase the vitality of the Indian diaspora.
Dr. Masum Momaya succeeded Dr. Pawan Dhingra as the new curator of the Indian American Heritage Project in June 2012. She was earlier a curator at the International Museum of Women and engaged in curatorial work for the Indo-American Heritage Museum. She is also a recipient of a National Science Foundation Research Fellowship.
In a candid conversation with India Review (IR), Dr. Momaya talks about Beyond Bollywood and the future plans of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program.
IR: What can people expect to see when they visit Beyond Bollywood?
MM: Something amazing, I hope. The exhibition will highlight the defining vibrancy of the Indian-American community: sights, colors, energy, tastes, and diversity. While much of the exhibition will feature iconic images, music, art and artifacts to tell stories about innovation and achievement, it will also recognize our struggles as a community and our many civic and political contributions to the United States; this is an aspect of American history that is not well known by the general public.
IR: Will the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program organize events around the exhibition?
MM: Absolutely. Beyond Bollywood is the starting point for a larger conversation about the Indian American experience. From 2013-2014, we are planning a wide variety of public programs — an Inside the Actors Studio conversation with an Indian American actor, a film screening, dance and music performances, a book reading, a demonstration and tasting with an Indian American chef, a hip hop/spoken word evening, a comedy night, and hopefully much more.
IR: Will Beyond Bollywood travel or do you have to come to Washington, D.C.?
MM: After a one-year tenure at the Smithsonian, Beyond Bollywood will travel to venues across the country for 3-5 years. The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) will organize the tour of the traveling version of the exhibition. In addition to the more than 7 million visitors who will see the exhibition at the Smithsonian, we estimate that an additional 100,000 people will be able to experience Beyond Bollywood when it tours across the nation. The exhibition will also have an interactive website.
IR: How can our readers be a part of this effort?
MM: We are still raising funds for the exhibition and looking for supporters. And we are looking for photographs! We are crowdsourcing the story of Indian Americans and asking Indian Americans across the country to share their story. We recently launched a campaign to collect family photos. I hope people will be willing to be part of this effort at collective storytelling and upload their photos to our Facebook page or send them to IndianAmerican@si.edu. Photos should include the submitter’s name or family’s name, the year that the photo was taken, and the occasion.