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The Smithsonian Board of Regents announced that the search for sites for two new museums—the National Museum of the American Latino and the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum—will primarily focus on four locations. Each will be further evaluated by the Smithsonian and the engineering/architecture firm Ayers Saint Gross of Baltimore between now and the end of the year. The museums were authorized by Congress in December 2020. Since the passage of the legislation, the Smithsonian has undertaken an extensive site-selection analysis and thorough review of more than 25 sites. The legislation requires that the Smithsonian identify the two final locations by the end of 2022. The final decision on locations will be made by the Board of Regents.
The four sites under further consideration in alphabetical order are:
- Arts and Industries Building—900 Jefferson Dr. S.W., a Smithsonian building on the National Mall next to the Castle
- Northwest Capitol site—undeveloped land located north of the Capitol Reflecting Pool, under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Capitol
- 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. and Maine Avenue S.W., under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service
The evaluation of each site uses the following criteria:
- Location—the symbolism of the National Mall is important to supporters of both museums
- Existing site conditions—sufficient capacity for a building, views and vistas, security considerations, existing landscape features, opportunity for architectural expression; this includes its compatibility with relevant federal and local Washington, D.C., plans
- Transportation—accessible to cars, pedestrians, bicyclists; overall traffic volume; access to public transit
- Environmental factors—subsurface conditions, hazardous materials, flood risk, noise levels
- Costs—demolition of an existing building if necessary or rehabilitation of existing building; construction of a new building; costs associated with opening
- Acquisition potential—challenges and opportunities in acquiring the site
“Selection of a site is one of the most consequential decisions for a museum,” said Lonnie Bunch, Smithsonian Secretary. “It is important that the steps we take ensure a transparent, inclusive and thorough process.”
Earlier this year, the Smithsonian began conducting surveys and focus groups to get a mix of local and national perspectives. There were nine focus sessions—four for each museum and one for both museums. Focus sessions included stakeholders from civic groups and community non-profits, government leaders, congressional representatives, artists, performers, educators, museum professionals and potential donors. The leaders of the commissions that originally recommended establishing the museums were invited to comment along with leaders of Latino and women’s organizations as well as the advisory and council board members for both museums. In addition, Smithsonian leadership consulted with the mayor’s office and other local officials.
“The Smithsonian appreciates the thorough technical analysis and thoughtful input provided by diverse stakeholders, which will assist the Board of Regents in selecting the best physical locations for 21st-century museums that will engage visitors with new collections, imaginative exhibitions and immersive experiences, while providing digital content for a national audience,” said Steve Case, chair of the Board of Regents.
The legislation establishing the two museums called for the consultation of the National Capital Planning Commission, the Commission of Fine Arts, House and Senate congressional committees and the Architect of the Capitol.
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