The Smithsonian announced Thursday the opening of its first gallery devoted to the Latino American experience at the National Museum of American History.
The Molina Family Latino Gallery, which will open in 2021 on the first floor of the museum, will offer bilingual exhibitions exploring the history and contributions of American Latinos. A donation of $ 10 million from the five children of deceased California physician and entrepreneur, C. David Molina, is funding this 4,500 square foot space.
The permanent gallery is a long-term goal of the Smithsonian Latino Center, founded in 1997 to collaborate with the other museums and research centers of the institution to recognize the contributions of the Latin American population. The nine-person center supports professional development and education programs for young Latin Americans, academics and museum professionals; finances exhibitions and educational programs; and creates web content.
Eduardo Díaz, director of the center, said at a signing ceremony of the donor agreement Thursday that the gallery of the American History Museum would allow the center to connect directly with visitors.
"Setting up a dedicated space is not an easy task, and it's not cheap," said Díaz before thanking members of the Molina family, many of whom attended the event. The five siblings signed the agreement with Smithsonian secretary David J. Skorton, who said the gallery would help the Smithsonian "better tell the full story of America".
The gallery will honor the father of the donors, said Díaz, but will also contribute to the Latino Center's efforts to educate and inform the world about the Latino experience.
"We will recover the past, engage the present and imagine the future," said Díaz about the exhibitions.
Defenders supporting an autonomous museum for American Latinos welcomed the announcement. Although a gallery is not comparable to a museum, this represents significant progress, said Estuardo Rodriguez, executive director of the rights group Friends of the American Latino Museum.
"It's wonderful, that's exactly the way the African-American museum goes, they also had a gallery at the American history museum, we're following parallel tracks, and we'll emphasize that in our efforts to raise funds and adopt laws for [a museum], Said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez noted that Congress was increasingly supporting a Latino museum in Washington, and the donation of the Molina family shows that there is philanthropic support.
"I salute the Smithsonian's efforts to create space to honor and display the rich contribution Latinos and Latinas have made to this country since its very inception," said Sen. Bob Menendez (DN.J.) in an email. . "I am now convinced, more than ever, that the Smithsonian Institution has the capacity to soon complete a state-of-the-art museum dedicated to Latin Americans. It's a great first step.
In addition to the donation from the Molina family, Target donated $ 2 million for the space. The gallery will be designed by Museum Environments / Branded Environments and will feature interactive activities, artefacts and first-person accounts.
The inaugural exhibition, titled tentatively "Making Home: Latin American Community and Belonging Stories," will focus on Latinos' contributions by showing their "anchor in the history of the United States," said Ranald Woodaman, director exhibitions and public programs of the center. It will begin in colonial North America and expand to the present day, he said.
"We want to broaden people's notion of what it means to be Latino," he said. "It's not this homogenous experience. It depends where you come from. We want to show how we got together under this big label. "