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India Abroad Newspaper, February 28, 2003

"Smithsonian plans Sikh gallery"

"NEW YORK - The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, believed to be the most visited museum in the world, is planning a Sikh gallery to preserve and celebrate the rich Sikh heritage."

"The collection will include oil paintings, miniature art, rare books and lithographs, and a metal shrine that holds the Granth Sahib Sikhism's holy book The exhibits will delve on themes such as the Sikh Gurus, the royal courts of Punjab, royal jewelry, the British perspective en Punjab, and contemporary Sikh art."

"Among the proposed displays are a gouache painting of the 10 Sikh Gurus, the emerald-and-gold seal ring of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a portrait of his wife Rani Jindan, and works by artists such as Arpana Caur and Sobha Singh. "

"The cost of construction of the gallery and the initial presentation will come to around $850,000, according to Dr Paul M Taylor, director of the Asian Cultural History Program at the Smithsonian."

"Most of the exhibits will be on loan from the collection of Dr Narinder Kapany and Satinder Kapany. Some other interesting material is likely to come from India, as a loan from the Punjab government, but that a yet to he finalized. If all loan agreements are finalized, the gallery should open in 2005, according to Taylor."

"The gallery, scheduled to be a long-term one, is a spin-off from the Sikh Heritage Project, which began in 2000. A to Vijay Chattha, a coordinator of Smithsonian events, the project began as various leaders in the Sikh community got together to start a group that would preserve different elements of their culture. 'We have organized everything from music festivals, black-tie galas to educational discussion forums, featuring various academics from India,' he says."

"In June last year, the Smithsonian hosted Sikh Heritage Lectures at the museum, bringing in representation from the Indian and Pakastani ambassadors."

"Taylor says it was the decision of the Sikh community as well as the museum that creation of a gallery should be a priority in their mission to propagate Sikh culture. We are constructing the space and moving forward with planning the exhibition. He says he sees the gallery as a window on Sikh heritage for the American people, including Sikh-Americans and their children. It will help a lot of people understand Sikhism, particularly after 9/11. 'We have a very central iconic museum for the American people,' he says."

"In addition to the fact that the exhibition will help a lot of people understand Sikhism, he says, he sees it as a 'flag ship of a fleet of related activities such as the conferences that we have been doing lectures, films and so on.' According to Taylor, the gallery project is open-ended. The Smithsonian intends to set up an endowment to enable it to organize lectures and meet the cost of changing the exhibits and acquiring collections. The cost of continuing the programs will come to $2-$5 million 'to take this to a national level,' he points out."

"A generous donation has come from Rajinder Kaur Keith to uphold her sister's memory and love for the arts. She and her sister, Narinder Keith - who passed away in November 2002 - were impressed by the great quality of work in the Smithsonian, says Monorama Kochar, a friend who is also a member of the Sikh Heritage Foundation. 'They have donated about half-a-million dollars towards different projects.' Keith's $100,000 contribution is the largest donation to the Sikh Heritage Project by an individual."

"For the Smithsonian, the project was yet another step in its endeavor to celebrate various cultures. In 1985, it began a series of heritage projects including Thailand, Korea and the Philippines. 'Each of these has a dedicated fund, and they are based on research, exhibition and public programs and community involvement,' says Taylor."

"As part of the Sikh Heritage Project, the Smithsonian organized events in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. Another event has been scheduled in Detroit in April. Taylor says they are looking forward to cooperating with other museums, among them the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, which is scheduled to open a Sikh exhibition in April 2003."

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