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IHS exhibit spotlights Asian experiences in Indiana, featuring Japanese woman and Hoagy Carmichael

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indiana Historical Society is offering a glimpse into more than 100 years of Asian Heritage in Indiana.

While Asians make up a smaller percentage of Indiana’s population, their experiences here are one of a kind.

“These people have these lived experiences and their lives are shaped by things that happened before them. Things that are not tangible,” Nicole Martinez-LeGrand, Multicultural Collections Curator for the Indiana Historical Society said.

The Indiana Historical Society’s traveling exhibit “Be Heard: Asian Experiences in Indiana” takes a closer look at what it’s like to be Asian in Indiana throughout the past two centuries.

“We were just amazed there was a video for this photo,” Martinez-LeGrand said.

Since 2016, Martinez-LeGrand has helped uncover stories of different Asian voices all across the state.

“I’ve conducted audio recording oral histories of individuals who grew up in Indiana or have recently immigrated to Indiana. I’ve also started to collect some personal families photos to help illustrate those experiences as well as documents and books,” Martinez-LeGrand said.

The exhibit puts a spotlight on Myrtle Goldfinger, a Japanese woman who lived an extraordinary life as a dancer.

Goldfinger caught the attention of the American songwriter and Indiana native Hoagy Carmichael.

“She became pretty well known and I think that’s how. I don’t know exactly how she was referred to for the Hoagie Carmichael soundee, but she became very known in New York as a dancer” Daniella Kostroun, the daughter-in-law of Goldfinger, said.

“It was just a little video of her dancing on top of the piano with just like a little Hollywood magic,” Martinez-LeGrand said.

Daniella Kostroun is also a history professor at IUPUI.

“He’s my my father-in-law and my husband Johnny is his son. There she is in Japan on the military Tachikawa Air Force base near Tokyo, where my husband Johnny was born and that piano is still in our living room, and my children now play on it,” Kostroun said.

Kostroun says she’s happy to be able to share the remarkable life of her mother-in-law with everyone.

“Personally, it makes us feel grounded here in the state, and as a historian, I wanted to share her story,” Kostroun said.

“By understanding history is to really understand where we are as a society, where we have privilege, where we don’t have privilege, for other individuals and communities as well,” Martinez-LeGrand said.

The “Be Heard: Asian Experiences in Indiana” traveling exhibit will be shown at the Indiana Historical Society from May 16 through May 27.