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New museum exhibit aims to bolster religious tolerance and understanding in Indiana

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This Fall, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis will bring some of the wonders of the world to Indianapolis with Sacred Places, an alluring exhibit that lets families learn about people of diverse faiths around the world and the fascinating places that they hold sacred.

The new exhibit is a product of an $8 million Lilly Endowment grant bestowed upon four local museums in late 2020.

In June 2023, the Vice President of Religion at the Lilly Endowment Christopher Coble spoke of the importance of exhibits like Sacred Places and what they hope to achieve through this endowment.

“Religious beliefs and practices play critical roles in the lives of many individuals and families and influence aspects of public life,” said Coble. “With this initiative, we are encouraging museums and cultural organizations to imagine and undertake projects that help their visitors gain understanding about and appreciation for the diverse religious beliefs, practices and perspectives of their neighbors and others in communities around the world.”

The Children’s Museum’s Sacred Places exhibit will display various sacred places that align with this vision.

One of the sacred places the exhibit displays is the Chilean island of Rapa Nui (better known as Easter Island.) Residents of the island, who celebrate Moai, the ancestors represented by ancient and enormous stone statues, hold the island and its culture in high regard.

The new exhibit will also include Patan Durbar Square. Located near Kathmandu, Nepal, Patan Durbar Square is packed with 55 major Hindu temples, including the Keshav Narayan temple constructed on behalf of Lord Vishnu. Hindus hold the Square sacred for its vast collection of Hindu temples and shrines.

In addition to various other non-Chrisitan sites, the Sacred Places exhibit will highlight the biblical holy lands of Madaba, Jordan and the Mikve Isreal-Emanuel Synagogue of the Caribbean Island Curacao.

While attendees view reconstructions of sacred places, young people will also act as tour guides, describing how they feel, what they do and what they experience when they visit their sacred site.

According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 72% of Indiana residents identify as Christians, 26% have no religious affiliation and 2% identify as non-Christian faiths, such as Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism. These numbers indicate that the exhibit will provide attendees with the ability to learn about religious cultures they may not be overly familiar with.

Carleen Carter, former president of the Crown Hill Neighborhood Association, spoke briefly about the upcoming Sacred places exhibit and Access Pass program, which allows eligible community residents to visit the museum for $2 per household member per visit.

“I think [Sacred Places] is a great addition to the Children’s Museum,” Carter said. “Plus, our Crown Hill residents can enjoy all the amenities at a discounted price.”

The Sacred Places exhibit promises to provide attendees with an opportunity to learn about sacred places from various cultures. The exhibit opens Sept. 7.

Contact multi-media staff writer Noral Parham III at 317-762-7846 or via email at noralp@indyrecorder.com Follow him on Twitter @NoralParham. For more spiritual and religion news and commentary similar to the Children’s Museum ‘Sacred Places’ exhibit, click here.

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