We reviewed UCLA’s report, Invisible No More: An Evaluation of the Smithsonian Institution and Latino Representation, and its findings. Latino history is American history, and it is important to us that all Americans visiting Smithsonian museums and websites see themselves represented in the stories we tell. The Smithsonian recognizes its unique responsibility to explore and share with the public America’s entire cultural history. We take pride in the progress we have made in Ltino staffing, programs, exhibitions and collections, and we recognize there is still much work to be done.
Below is a brief summary of Latino-related collections, programming, exhibitions and staffing at the Smithsonian in recent years:
- Since 2010, the Smithsonian has added 10 Latino content experts who drive research, organize exhibitions, build collections, create public and educational programs, inform online web-based/digital content, publish and mentor Smithsonian interns and fellows. For example, at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the deputy chief curator and curator of Latino art has increased the Latino collection by 62 percent.
- During the 2018 American Alliance of Museums conference, the Smithsonian Latino Center was awarded the 2018 Award for Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion for its Latino Curatorial Initiative.
- As part of the National Portrait Gallery’s initiative to become fully bilingual (English and Spanish), the museum now has nine dual-language exhibitions with bilingual labels, including labels for the new portraits of President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.
- The Smithsonian Latino Center currently supports six professional development programs for Latino students in the arts and sciences.
- One of the most popular traveling exhibitions focused on Mexican guest workers in the mid-20th century. “Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942–1964” opened at the National Museum of American History and was seen at 41 community museums, libraries and cultural centers in 20 states. It toured from 2009 to 2017, making it one of the longest touring and most highly in-demand Smithsonian traveling exhibitions.
- Since 1995, over 500 Smithsonian programs and projects have received Latino Initiatives Pool support from the Smithsonian Latino Center, totaling over $25.5 million.
- In 2021, the Smithsonian will welcome its first permanent Latino Gallery, which will be located in the National Museum of American History.
Current and Upcoming Latino Exhibitions
- March 2018–January 2019: “UnSeen: Our Past in a New Light, Ken Gonzales-Day and Titus Kaphar” (National Portrait Gallery); curated by Taína Caragol
- July 2018–October 2019: “Taíno: Native Heritage and Identity in the Caribbean” (Smithsonian Latino Center and National Museum of the American Indian)
- October 2018–June 2019: “Rebeca Méndez Selects” (Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum)
- March 2019–August 2019: “Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965–1975” (Smithsonian American Art Museum); traveling late 2019 nationwide
- April 2020: “Latinos and Baseball: In the Barrios and the Big Leagues” (National Museum of American History)
- May 2020: “Printing the Revolution! Chicano Graphics from the Civil Rights Era to Today” (Smithsonian American Art Museum)
- November 2017–March 2018: “Tamayo: The New York Years” (Smithsonian American Art Museum)
- May 2017–August 2017: “Down These Mean Streets: Community and Place in Urban Photography” (Smithsonian American Art Museum); curated by E. Carmen Ramos
- April 2017–January 2018: “The Face of Battle: Americans at War, 9/11 to Now” (National Portrait Gallery); curated by Taína Caragol
Since 2014, Smithsonian has offered more than 130 public programs, including lectures, performances, film screenings, family days, workshops and seminars.
The Smithsonian’s existing collections include hundreds of thousands of objects pertaining to Latino history, art and culture, including artifacts, artwork, papers, oral histories and video and audio recordings. Examples of ongoing efforts to collect objects representative of Latino culture include:
- Since 2014, the National Portrait Gallery has increased its acquisition of Latino subjects and artists by 90 percent.
- The National Museum of African American History and Culture recently began a major initiative to collect objects related to the Afro-Latino experience.
- The National Museum of American History has six major active collecting initiatives underway: Latinos and Baseball, Mexican American Winemakers, Spanish-language Television, Armed Forces History, Music and Women’s History.
Total 2018 all Smithsonian employees
African American 29.9%
Native American 1.4%
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander .2%
Senior Leadership (11)
Of the 11 senior leaders, one is an African American woman and one is Latina.
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Linda St. Thomas