The Smithsonian Institution is one of the most known museum and research centers celebrating numerous American achievements from all walks of life. Started in 1997, the Smithsonian Latino Center has never had a physical location. According to the website, the center has worked collaboratively with other Smithsonian properties to include temporary exhibits featuring American Latinos and their achievements. That’s all about to change with the announcement that the Smithsonian will open its first gallery focused on the U.S. Latino experience, in the National Museum of American History.
The Molina Family Latino Gallery is set to debut in 2021 and will focus on sharing the stories of Latino communities in the U.S.
We continue making history together! Juntos haciendo historia! The Molina Family Latino Gallery will be the first-ever physical space at the Smithsonian dedicated to highlighting the U.S. Latino experience, opening in 2021 at @amhistorymuseum! https://t.co/nJLxQX4iNZ pic.twitter.com/i9go58SXRR
— Smithsonian Latino Center (@SLC_Latino) December 6, 2018
The new gallery space will explore Latino identities and include bilingual exhibits exploring the history and contributions of American Latinos. The first exhibit will be called “Making Home: Latino Stories of Community and Belonging,” and highlight the various contributions of Latino cultures in North America and their influence around the world. This will mark the first time a permanent gallery space will be offered at the National Museum of American History highlighting the Latino community.
A $10 million donation toward the gallery was made from members of the Molina family, who dedicated the donation in memory of their father, Dr. C. David Molina, the founder of Molina Healthcare.
The gallery will offer visitors many interactive pieces, including a podcast and a forthcoming app.
In celebration of the big news, the Latino Center has a fresh new brand to express our core values: Unity, Education, Voice, Heritage, and Entrepreneurial. What words, English or Spanish, would you like to see reflected in our new brand? pic.twitter.com/ETVOUxDYr2
— Smithsonian Latino Center (@SLC_Latino) December 10, 2018
The gallery will have a distance-learning component where people can learn about Latino history from anywhere through podcasts, a mobile broadcast and a Smithsonian Latino Center app. These are all efforts by the Smithsonian to increase its Latino representation. They will include recent highlights of Latino artists and social issues that affect Latino-Americans.
“Latino history is American history, and we have a responsibility to reflect the stories and experiences of Latinas and Latinos in the U.S. today,” Eduardo Díaz, director of the Smithsonian Latino Center, said in a statement. “We’ll continue to do that not only through this future gallery, but also through our diverse programmatic, educational and professional development programs, as well as our work to unlock and increase access to Latino content across the Institution.”
The gallery opens up more possibilities to one day have a new museum dedicated to Latinos as a whole.
— Arlene Dávila (@arlenedavila1) December 9, 2018
Many Latino advocates celebrated the announcement of the gallery in hopes that it one day leads to a museum dedicated to Latinos. For years, there’s been a call to create a Latino Museum on the National Mall. Friends of the American Latino Museum (FALM), a non-profit organization, has been key in bringing attention to this. Estuardo Rodriguez, executive director of FALM, says that the African American Museum took a similar route.
“It’s wonderful. This is exactly the road the African American Museum took. They also had a gallery in the American History Museum,” Rodriguez told the Washington Post. “We run on parallel tracks, and we will point to that in our efforts to fundraise and to pass legislation for [a museum].”
The gallery is a huge step forward in terms of not only Latino representation but the acknowledgment of Latino contributions in American history. Diaz hopes the gallery changes perspectives on what it truly means to a Latino in America.
“We want to expand people’s notions of what it means to be Latino,” Diaz said at the ceremonial signing of the donor agreement. “It’s not this homogenous experience. It depends on where you’re from. We want to show how we came together under this big label.”