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Tribune India Newspaper, July 11, 2004

"Ultra-modern Sikh museum in Washington,
Inauguration by Tarlochan Singh on July 24"

Chandigarh - "Sikhs: Legacy of the Punjab", a new high-tech museum, is all set for inauguration at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, Washington, later this month. Mr Tarlochan Singh, MP and Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, will inaugurate it on July 24 in Washington DC.

The museum presents more than 100 pieces of Sikh artwork and artefacts produced from the 18th century to the present, including miniature paintings, arms and armor, traditional textiles and dress, coins, musical instruments, jewellery, sacred texts, and modern works of art.

It also includes a scale model of Sri Darbar Sahib - the Golden Temple. Many of these objects are on loan from private collections and will be on public display for the first time.

The museum highlights the culture and history of the Sikhs, as the people originally from the Punjab region whose religious, cultural, and artistic traditions have expanded with Sikh migrations around the world. There are approximately 2,50,000 Sikh Americans and their community roots date back to well over a century. Sikhism was founded about 500 years ago and today has 22 million followers worldwide.

"This Smithsonian initiative to help preserve and celebrate Sikh heritage comes at a crucial time," says Mr Paul Michael Taylor, Director of the Museum's Sikh Heritage Project and curator of Asian, European and Middle Eastern Ethology at the Smithsonian. "Many Sikhs describe their religion as one that draws from both Islam and Hinduism, and they feel that their presence in these neighbouring countries contributes to peace between them."

As a part of the inaugural programme Mr Taylor will address the themes of the exhibition in a lecture on "Sikh Legacy of the Punjab," during the museum's regular "Friday at noon" series on July 23 at Baird Auditorium.

The fourth annual Sikh Heritage Lecture, focusing on Sikh cultural history, will be held on July 24. The 2004 lecturers will emphasise "Sikh Representations Today," and will include presentations by modern Sikh artists whose works appear in the exhibition, and a live performance of Sikh music by Dya Singh World Music Group.

"Sikh Legacy of the Punjab" is organised by the museum's Sikh Heritage Project, a research and outreach component of the Asian Cultural History Programme in the Department of Anthropology. The Smithsonian's Sikh Heritage Project, launched in 2000, was established "to support acquisition, conservation/restoration, and exhibition of Sikh collections, to support research on the heritage of the Sikhs, and to support other Sikh cultural activities at the Smithsonian Institution." The Sikh Heritage Project's first lectures were held at the National Museum of National History in August 2001.

The project has been mainly supported by the Sikh diaspora of North America with Dr N.S. Kapany and Dr A.S. Chatha playing a pioneer role. Some of the exhibits, including the replica of the Golden Temple complex made by a Chandigarh artist Devinder Singh, went from here.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History located in Washington DC was visited by more than 5.5 million people in 2003, making it the most visited natural history museum in the world. Opened in 1910, the museum is dedicated to maintaining and preserving the world's most extensive collection of natural history specimens and human artefacts. It also fosters critical scientific research as well as educational programme and exhibitions that present the work of its scientists and curators to the public.

Mr Tarlochan Singh told The Tribune that the Sikh Museum as a part of Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History would help in projecting correct image of Sikhs in proper historic perspective. The Sikhs , who had been targeted in hate crime after September 11 bombing of the World Trade Towers, would now be able to tell people, especially in the United States, about their rich heritage. The use of ultra-modern techniques for displaying their artefacts as well as displaying their heritage was required long time back. The community should focus on this aspect for its rightful projection in the Western world, he added."

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