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Legislation passed Dec. 27, 2020, 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. Meroë Park, Deputy Secretary, with the assistance of an internal committee of senior Smithsonian officials, is overseeing the effort.
- 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
On June 29, the 19 members of the museum’s board of trustees were announced.
Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum
Its council will be named in early July 2021 and will have 25 members:
- Four appointed by congressional leadership
- Secretary of the Smithsonian
- 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 has named interim directors for each museum, and two executive search firms are helping with the search for the founding directors. Eduardo Díaz, director of the Smithsonian Latino Center, is the interim director of the American Latino Museum. Lisa Sasaki, the director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, is the interim director for the American Women’s History Museum.
- Begin the site-selection process for each museum (to be completed in two years, by December 2022)
An architectural engineering firm has been selected through the normal RFQ procedure to evaluate the sites. The name of the firm will be released when the contract is finalized. The deadline to pick the museum locations (per the legislation) is two years from the date of passage—December 2022. The final decision on the sites will be made by the Board of Regents. The legislation 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. Under Díaz’s direction, the center collaborates with Smithsonian museums to expand scholarly research, public programs, digital content, collections and more. Since 2010, the center has funded 20 positions for Latino curators, archivists and curatorial assistants across the Institution.
- In May 2022, the center will open its first physical museum space, the Molina Family Latino Gallery, at the National Museum of American History. The 4,500-square-foot 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