Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation Arrives at The Field Museum

On July 29, 2017, The Field Museum will open its newest exhibition, Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation. The Smithsonian traveling exhibition explores the heritage, daily experience, and numerous contributions of Indian immigrants and Indian Americans to our country.  Members of the media are invited to attend an open-house press preview of the exhibition on Tuesday, July 25, from 10am-noon.

Beyond Bollywood will be on display in the Marae Gallery at The Field Museum through January 7, 2018.  Visitors will explore stories of Indian Americans from throughout the United States, as well as those of local communities-- hearing their oral histories and viewing artifacts interpreted by Chicago’s Indo-American Heritage Museum, co-presenter of the exhibition.

From the builders of some of America's earliest railroads and farms, to Civil Rights pioneers and technology entrepreneurs, Indian Americans have long been an inextricable part of American life. Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation explores the Indian American experience and the community's vital political, professional, and cultural contributions to American history.

Created by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the exhibition moves past pop-culture stereotypes of Indian Americans to weave together stories of individual achievement and collective struggle.  Beyond Bollywood tells a uniquely American story while conveying the texture, vibrancy, and vitality of Indian American communities.

Added to the Smithsonian’s exhibition are cherished artifacts lent by local families, such as musical instruments, religious objects, and inventions created by Chicagoland entrepreneurs.  Another highlight is the Nobel Prize medal won by physicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, awarded for his pioneering work on the birth of stars.  

“The Field Museum is proud to have partnered with the Indo-American Heritage Museum to include the distinct voices of Chicago's Indian immigrant communities,” said Alaka Wali, the Museum’s Curator of North American Anthropology. “There are many wonderful gems of objects, photos, and stories that our visitors will find both surprising and yet perhaps familiar because they speak to the wonderful character of our city."

“This exhibition grows out of a longstanding relationship between our two institutions,” said the co-chair of the Indo-American Heritage Museum’s Beyond Bollywood committee, Lakshmi Menon.  “In augmenting the Smithsonian’s narrative of the national Indian American experience with the local Chicagoland story, we had the benefit of the Field’s professional expertise and they were able to enhance their understanding of what matters to our community.”  

“Interpreting our community and culture to wider audiences is a very important part of our mission, and we are delighted that the community got involved and supported us so enthusiastically in this effort ,” added committee co-chair Padma Rangaswamy.  “This exhibition not only helps Indian Americans learn more about their own heritage, it also makes them feel they are an integral part of the city they call home.”

"This section perfectly complements the Smithsonian's exhibition, and brings the local connections to life within the broader global contexts,” said Wali. “As an Indian American, I am delighted that the Field Museum is showcasing the depth and diversity of contributions that immigrants from India have made to American life.”

Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation was created by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.

The exhibition is co-presented in Chicago by The Field Museum and the Indo-American Heritage Museum. This exhibition is generously supported by The Chicago Community Trust.