Congress Approves New Smithsonian Museums Celebrating Latinx People and Women’s History

Illustration for article titled Congress Approves New Smithsonian Museums Celebrating Latinx People and Womens History

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The $900 billion covid-19 relief bill and end-of-year spending package, which Congress passed on Monday, also greenlit the creation of two new Smithsonian museums, one dedicated to Latinx people and the other dedicated to women’s history in the United States.

In order to build a new museum, the Smithsonian must be granted permission through federal legislation. Similar to the financing of the National Museum of African American History & Culture, the most recently created Smithsonian, the bill requires that the funding and costs for the projects be taken equally from public and private sources. Although several spots are already being scoped out, the Smithsonian Board of Regents is responsible for finding space for both new museums on or near the National Mall.

The president of the Friends of the American Latino Museum, Estuardo Rodriguez, said it was fitting that the new museum was included in the coronavirus bill:

“With the Latino community on the frontlines of this pandemic, in the food service industry, agriculture, healthcare services and caring for the elderly … Latinos and Latinas have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, suffering high rates of infection and death.” He continues, “The legislation to create a museum serves to not only honor the past contributions of American Latinos for over 500 years, but recognize their sacrifices today.”

Representative Carolyn B. Maloney expressed her excitement at the inclusion of a Smithsonian Women’s History Museum, remarking:

“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.”

Back in 2011, a presidential commission estimated that a “Smithsonian American Latino Museum” would cost approximately $600 million to build, staff, and open, with funding divided between private donations and congressional appropriations. And in 2019, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that a women’s history museum would cost $375 million, with construction costing $242 million, and exhibits, programs, staffing, and other operational expenses coming out to $133 million.

Better extremely, extremely late than never, I suppose.