Creating Identity in America: A Look at the Smithsonian’s Beyond Bollywood Exhibition


The immigrant story is a timeless and consistent theme in United States history. As new groups make America home for reasons of opportunity, sanctuary, freedom, etc., enlivened debates as to who is really “American” rise: Is America a melting pot or a salad bowl? Can one be an individual, traditional, and assimilated simultaneously? The exhibit Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation explores the tenuous balance of creating identity through the stories of various immigrant communities.

On February 27, 2014, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) launched its anticipated Beyond Bollywood exhibition. Sponsored in part by the Asian Pacific American Center, the exhibit shares the compelling but comparatively untold story of one immigrant group—the Indian American. Incorporating photography, narratives, multimedia, and interactive stations, NMNH presents the history of Indian migration to the United States, and highlights this community’s contributions to American society. Running on site at NMNH…

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2 thoughts on “Creating Identity in America: A Look at the Smithsonian’s Beyond Bollywood Exhibition

  1. I really like the quote “The exhibit does not seek to tell a story of assimilation nor of isolation: instead, Beyond Bollywood displays the Indian American quest for acceptance amid individuality.” That really emphasizes that the end goal is acceptance and creating a new identity, not assimilation. I’m curious to learn more about this exhibit and see how they present the complex issues of identity.

    I’m also curious as to why this exhibit is at the National Museum of Natural History, not an American History museum. It seems like an odd choice…

  2. Emily, I asked myself the same thing. I thought it was very interesting that the exhibit wasn’t shown at NMAH but I found no reason as to why NMNH was chosen instead.

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