After a years-long campaign by supporters, it appears Congress is now set to establish the National Museum of the American Latino and the American Women’s History Museum.
The massive omnibus spending package and COVID-19 relief measure passed by Congress Monday night includes provisions for the two new Smithsonian museums. The additions will make the world’s largest museum complex more diverse.
The legislation calls for establishing boards for each museum and also a two-year deadline for determining the locations for each museum. It also stipulates that federal funds will be used for half of the respective costs, while the other half will be raised through private funding.
After more than two decades of advocacy, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) wrote that “victory finally came today.”
“We have overcome tremendous obstacles and unbelievable hurdles to get to this historic moment, but, as I’ve said before, Latinos are used to overcoming obstacles. Passage of the National Museum of the American Latino 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 wrote. “With this vote, Latinos and Latinas across our nation will finally have their stories, struggles, and impact on our country validated by the United States Congress.”
Menendez went on to say that 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.”
Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), the primary sponsor of the House bill on the women’s history museum, said in a statement to The Washington Post that “for too long, women’s stories have been left out of the telling of our nation’s history, but with this vote, we begin to rectify that.”
Maloney also wrote in a statement from her office that building a Smithsonian Women’s History Museum has been years in the making, and she is “thrilled” the legislation is set to pass because it is a testament to the women who have helped build and shape the United States.
“Americans of all ages deserve to see and be inspired by the remarkable women who helped shape this nation — seeing role models doing the thing to which we aspire, can change the course of someone’s life,” Maloney wrote. “How fitting that we pass this bill as we mark the centennial of the 19th Amendment and in the year in which we elected our first woman vice president.”
The proposed museums would be the first new Smithsonian facilities since the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in 2016.
The legislation offers two suggestions for where the Women’s History Museum could be built: the South 14 Monument site bordered by 14th Street and Jefferson Drive, Wallenberg Place, and Independence Avenue; and the Northwest Capitol site bordered by 3rd Street and Constitution Avenue, 1st Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.
Those two sites are also among the suggestions for the American Latino Museum. The legislation offers two other possible sites as well: the Arts and Industries Building at 900 Jefferson Drive and the Agriculture Department facility bordered by 12th and 14th Streets, Jefferson Drive, and Independence Avenue.
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