Legislation passed Dec. 27, 2020, that established two new museums at the Smithsonian: the National Museum of the American Latino and the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum. Although there is no building yet for the American Latino Museum, the new director Jorge Zamanillo and his staff are working on virtual exhibitions, programs, fundraising and opening a preview exhibition June 18 in the museum’s Molina Family Latino Gallery located in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Zamanillo, former executive director and CEO of HistoryMiami Museum, was named the founding director of the National Museum of the American Latino. He began work at the Smithsonian in May 2022. When the museum was established by Congress in late 2020, Eduardo Díaz served as its acting director.
The museum’s 19-member board of trustees was established in summer 2021. The board held its first meeting virtually in October 2021. It advises and assists the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents on matters related to the development of the museum.
Molina Family Latino Gallery
The museum’s Molina Family Latino Gallery, the Smithsonian’s first gallery solely dedicated to Latino contributions to America, will open June 18 at the National Museum of American History. The 4,500-square-foot gallery will offer temporary exhibitions and educational programs in the decade or so leading up to the grand opening of the museum’s own building.
“¡Presente! A Latino History of the United States” is the museum’s first exhibition in the gallery. It introduces visitors to critical concepts, moments and biographies that shine a light on the historical and cultural legacy of U.S. Latinos. It will be on view until Dec. 1, 2024, at the National Museum of American History. A companion website highlights select oral histories, 3D objects, historical biographies and objects.
The Site-Selection Process
The next big step in the museum’s history will be the location of its building on or near the National Mall, which is home to many Smithsonian museums. The architectural engineering firm Ayers Saint Gross is conducting a meticulous evaluation of various sites in the Mall area and will prepare a final report for the Board of Regents to make its choice. The announcement will be made before the end of 2022.
Programs and Exhibitions
The museum is integrating and building on programs previously managed by the Smithsonian Latino Center. It will continue to advance the representation, understanding and appreciation of Latino history and culture in the United States. It also provides financial resources and collaborates with other museums to expand scholarly research, public programs, digital content, collections and more.
- Fostering Future Leaders and Museum Professionals: The American Latino Museum offers programs such as the Latino Museum Studies Program for emerging museum-studies scholars, the Young Ambassadors Program for graduating high school seniors and the Latino Curatorial Initiative for museum careers. Since 2010, the initiative has funded 20 positions for Latino curators, archivists and curatorial assistants across the Institution.
- Advancing Intergenerational and Lifelong Learning: The museum will present diverse and complex stories about the Latino experience through public programs to serve audiences of all ages through Latino heritage celebrations, free concerts, films, lectures, group visits, online programs and many other special events. Programs will take place at the General Motors Learning Lounge, located within the Molina Family Latino Gallery, or in museums across the Smithsonian.
- Supporting Latino Exhibitions: In addition to developing exhibitions for the Molina Family Latino Gallery, the museum collaborates with other museums across the Smithsonian and beyond to produce temporary and traveling exhibitions:
- “¡Pleibol! In the Barrios and the Big Leagues / En los barrios y las grandes ligas” reflects the social and cultural influence of baseball on Latino communities. It is on view at the National Museum of American History and touring nationwide.
- “Dolores Huerta: Revolution in the Fields” looks at Dolores Huerta, a principal leader of the California farmworkers’ movement in the 1960s and 1970s. It is currently on tour through the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.
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