IN THE AUTUMN of Aditi, the year-long festival of India, the Museum of American History is offering up two footnotes -- a show on coins and another on chintz. Like footnotes, this is specialized subject matter.
In "Aditi: The Monies of India," on the third floor through March, we see coinage as far back as the 6th century B.C. There are eight display cases of rupees here, as well as a bit of Indian sunken treasure -- a "concreted mass" of a thousand rupees struck before 1702. Found off the coast of Ceylon, the 40-pound lump of silver is still shaped like the bag it was stored in.
The other show, "All Sorts of Painted Stuff: Indian Chintz and its Western Counterparts," spreads out bedcovers, children's jackets and womens' dresses from Smithsonian collections. It's open through January on the museum's first floor.
The colorful designs of Indian chintz often included a bamboo trunk sporting a variety of flowers and berries. Besides taking artistic license early on, Indian textile painters knew how to keep colors from fading, even in pre-washday-miracle times. In the mid-19th century, European textile printers caught on to the method: applying metallic salts ("mordants") to the cloth before printing. Should you wish to prepare chintz yourself, the exhibit details the steps. There are about 15, pounding being the least of them.