National Museum of the American Latino

March 25, 2024
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National Museum of the American Latino


The National Museum of the American Latino is one of two museums created in 2020 by an act of Congress, establishing it and the Smithsonian National Women’s History Museum as part of the Smithsonian. Although there is no building yet for the American Latino Museum, founding director Jorge Zamanillo and his staff are working on exhibitions, programs and fundraising while operating a 4,500-square-foot gallery 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 board of trustees, established in 2021, consists of 19 citizens, the Smithsonian Secretary and Under Secretary for Museums and Culture, one member of the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents and two members of Congress. The board helps with fundraising and advises and assists the Regents on matters related to the museum’s development.

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 Smithsonian’s Board of Regents has identified two potential sites for the National Museum of the American Latino and the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum. These locations are considered the two optimal sites with the greatest potential based on site-selection evaluative criteria combined with stakeholder input:  

  • South Monument site—undeveloped land across the National Mall from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, on Jefferson Drive S.W., under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service
  • Tidal Basin site—undeveloped land bordered by Raoul Wallenberg Place S.W., Maine Avenue S.W. and Independence Avenue S.W., under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service

The sites require congressional approval before the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents can make its final designations. 

Molina Family Latino Gallery

The National Museum of the American Latino opened the Molina Family Latino Gallery, the Smithsonian’s first gallery dedicated to Latino contributions to America, in June 2022 at the National Museum of American History. The 4,500-square-foot gallery offers 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 Nov. 30, 2025, at the National Museum of American History. A companion website highlights select oral histories, 3D objects, historical biographies and objects.

Programs and Exhibitions

The museum is integrating and building on programs previously managed by the former Smithsonian Latino Center. It will continue to advance the representation, understanding, and appreciation of Latino history and culture in the United States. The museum also provides 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. These programs will include Latino heritage celebrations, free concerts, films, lectures, group visits, online programs and other special events. Many 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.

For updates on the American Latino Museum, visit Follow @USLatinoMuseum on Facebook, Instagram and X (formerly Twitter).

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