That’s common to a “trip sheet,” a taxi meter and a citizen’s band radio? The three artifacts are being added to the Smithsonian Institution’s Indian American Heritage Project.
The Indian-American yellow cab driver and his South Asian counterparts have become ubiquitous in New York City, notes an April 26 release from the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program. Recognizing that 60 percent of cab drivers in the Big Apple are South Asian, the Smithsonian is adding the three objects to its Indian American project.
The items are just the latest acquisitions for the expanding collection, said Pawan Dhingra, curator of the HomeSpun Project, as the Indian-American initiative is called.
Envisioned in 2009 by members of the Indian-American community, the HomeSpun Project hopes to bring the more than 100-year history of the community to the general public.
But its future depends on raising that critical $1 million to jumpstart things.
The three artifacts have been given to the Smithsonian by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, one of many community organizations Dhingra is networking with, not just for objects but also the million dollars he hopes to raise before the exhibit can open. The collection also recently acquired artifacts relating to the first Indian-American congressman, Dalip Singh Saund.
“So far we have raised 40 percent of the $1 million needed,” Dhingra, who joined as curator in January 2011, told News India Times. Despite operating with a lean staff, Dhingra said, he is optimistic about raising the rest. Over and above that, he has another ambition – to raise another $1 million for an Indian-American endowment at the Smithsonian. “We feel very optimistic. Young people who started the project have been helping, giving guidance through our advisory council,” he said.
The Indian Embassy recently held an event to highlight the HomeSpun Project, and Dhingra is in touch with “lots of” organizations in the Bay Area in California as well as high-profile trade groups like the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, other corporations and foundations. “These things take time,” Dhingra said. But time is of the essence in determining whether the exhibition will take place in June or September.
“Because HomeSpun is first and foremost a community-based initiative, prominent Indian-American families and leaders are asked to help lay the groundwork for the project,” the Smithsonian said in its press release.
The funds raised are being used not just to hire a curator and develop the exhibition but also to take the exhibition around the country, maintain a dedicated website for HomeSpun, conduct public programs in D.C. and around the country and develop a curriculum guide to accompany the exhibition.
Originally, the exhibition was expected to open in 2012 and travel the country for three years. The opening has been pushed back to 2013.
While there is no such thing as a “permanent” exhibition, Dhingra said, “What we are doing is building a permanent collection.” For more information on HomeSpun or to donate, visit www.homespun.si.edu.