FREMONT - The stories of Bhutanese-Nepali immigrants will be told through photos in an upcoming exhibit at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums, providing a look at the Southwest Asian groups' long journey to Ohio.
“Bhutanese-Nepali Neighbors: Photographs by Tariq Tarey,” opens Feb. 2 at the museum.
Associate Curator Kevin Moore said the exhibit, which includes 30 photographs of members of the Bhutanese-Nepali community in Columbus and Central Ohio, humanizes the immigrants' personal stories.
"I was very impressed with the story of the people and how they were photographed," Moore said Tuesday as members of the Ohio History Connection and the Hayes museum began setting up the exhibit.
The exhibit is a good fit at the museum because it connects concerns about immigration when Hayes was president from 1877 to 1881 to modern issues of immigration, said Kristina Smith, the Hayes' museum's marketing and communications manager.
Each photograph was taken by award-winning photographer Tarey and is accompanied by a narrative written by Doug Rutledge, which details each individual’s history, according to the museum.
About 20,000 Bhutanese-Nepalis now live in Columbus and central Ohio after being forced to leave their native Bhutan and lived for as long 20 years in a temporary camp in nearby Nepal.
According to the Hayes museum, the photographs emphasize the historic sequence of the Bhutanese-Nepali refugee experience; from living and working in the Himalayan nation of Bhutan, to being forced to leave, the experience of living in refugee camps in Nepal, to resettlement in Columbus, finding jobs, buying homes and finally becoming American citizens.
Bill Mahon, the Ohio History Connection's design and production manager of exhibits, said the exhibit opened in May 2017 at the Ohio History Center in Columbus and had drawn large crowds.
"It's such a big part of the Ohio story — new citizens," Mahon said.
He said he was moved by the struggle of the Bhutanese-Nepali immigrants to stay true to their culture and faith as they moved into a new society.
"The sacrifices they made to give their families a better life, I get emotional just thinking about it," Mahon said. "It's just a very universal story when you put yourself in their shoes."
Mahon said the museum reached out to Hayes officials because of the Fremont facility's stature as a big draw with regional and national visitors.
“Bhutanese-Nepali Neighbors” is open from Feb. 2 to May 25 in the lower level of the Hayes Museum.
“Bhutanese-Nepali Neighbors” will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Members are admitted for free. Admission for nonmembers is included with the purchase of a regular museum admission ticket.
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