Though the museums could take years to conceptualize, curate and build, Congress’ approval is a victory for the museums’ advocates whose efforts date back decades.
The American Latino museum will “illuminate the story of the United States for the benefit of all by featuring Latino contributions,” decades after the Smithsonian issued a report finding that it displayed a pattern of “willful neglect,” excluding and ignoring the presence and contributions of Latino Americans in both its workforce and exhibition halls.
The American women’s history museum will be devoted to the documentation of women’s contributions throughout the nation’s history and recognize “diverse perspectives.”
The Smithsonian Institution said in a statement that it is “reviewing the legislation carefully.”
“The Smithsonian has unparalleled experience building national museums, and is already doing significant work to tell the stories of American Women and Latinos. We look forward to building two world-class museums to further amplify these stories and help our country learn more about the impact that women and Latinos have had on the fabric of our nation,” the Smithsonian said in a statement provided to CNN Tuesday.
Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, a longtime advocate for a Latino museum and the lead sponsor of the Senate bill, said that the museum’s passage is the “culmination of decades of hard work, advocacy, successes and setbacks in the movement to recognize Latino contributions to America’s history, economy and culture.”
Menendez said he “cannot wait until the day when I can take my granddaughters to visit the National Museum of the American Latino in our nation’s capital.”
Half of both museums’ funding will be provided by federal funds and the other half from private donations. The museums have two years to designate a site.
Two vacant sites on the National Mall will be considered as potential locations for either the Latino or the women’s museum: the southern part of the National Mall close to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum bordered by 14th Street and Jefferson Drive, or the northwest part within walking steps of the US Capitol, enclosed by Constitution Ave and Pennsylvania Ave.
The Arts and Industries Building of the Smithsonian Institution or the area between 12th Street and 14th Street on the National Mall will also be considered for the new Latino museum.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated last year that a women’s museum would cost $375 million over a nine-year period, with construction of the museum adding up to $242 million, and staffing, exhibits and program creations and operations pricing out to be $133 million.