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The legislation calls for two new museums to be established at the Smithsonian. Congress has not yet allocated money for these museums; funding will be included in future appropriations. Below are the next steps for the Smithsonian. They will be led by Meroë Park, Deputy Secretary, with the assistance of an internal committee of senior Smithsonian officials.
- Establish advisory boards for each museum within six months (June 2021). The majority of the members of both boards will be named by the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents.
National Museum of the American Latino
Board of Trustees to have 19 members:
- Under Secretary for Museums and Culture
- A member of the Board of Regents
- Chair of the Smithsonian Latino Center board
- Two members of Congress—one each named by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Conference. (Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) has been appointed by the Caucus)
- 13 additional members appointed by the Board of Regents
Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum
Council to have 25 members:
- Four appointed by congressional leadership
- One member of the Board of Regents
- 19 additional members named by the Board of Regents
- Appoint a director for each museum (time frame not set in the legislation)
The Secretary is naming interim directors for each museum while two executive search firms are retained to help with the search for the founding directors. Eduardo Díaz, director of the Smithsonian Latino Center, has been named interim director of the American Latino Museum. Lisa Sasaki, the director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, has been named the interim director for the Women’s History Museum. Park is coordinating the various activities related to the new museums.
- Begin the site-selection process for each museum (to be completed in two years, by December 2022)
Site selection requires an outside consulting firm or perhaps two separate firms. They will be selected through the normal RFQ procedure. The deadline to pick the sites, as per the legislation, is two years from the date of passage. The final decision on the sites will be made by the Board of Regents, although the legislation for each museum names a few locations to be considered and expresses the intent of Congress that the sites be located on or near the National Mall.
Ongoing Latino and Women’s History Programs at the Smithsonian
The Smithsonian has a robust program of exhibitions, public events and research to tell the stories of Latino Americans and women in the United States. These programs will continue to work independently during the years the museums are being established.
Smithsonian Latino Center
Since its founding in 1997, the Smithsonian Latino Center has advanced representation of Latino history and culture in the United States. The center, under the direction of Eduardo Díaz, collaborates with Smithsonian museums to expand scholarly research, public programs, digital content, collections and more. To date, the center has funded 12 Latino curators and archivist positions across the Institution.
In 2022, the center will open its first physical museum space, the Molina Family Latino Gallery, at the National Museum of American History. The gallery space will be the first national Latino gallery on the National Mall.
Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative
In 2018, the Smithsonian officially launched the American Women’s History Initiative—“Because of Her Story”—to document, research, collect and exhibit the stories of women who have helped shape America. The initiative has developed exhibitions, programs, educational material and digital content; funded nine curatorial positions dedicated to women’s history across Smithsonian museums; and published a book, Smithsonian American Women.
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Linda St. Thomas