Panel Recommends Establishment Of Latino Smithsonian Museum

On May 4, the National Museum of the American Latino (NMAL) Commission delivered its Final Report to President Obama and Congressional leaders. The panel’s findings call for the establishment of a museum on a site at the base of Capitol Hill that would come under the administration of the Smithsonian Institution.

The congressionally-established and presidentially-appointed NMAL Commission was tasked to study the potential of a national museum dedicated to the art, culture, and history of the Latino Community in the United States. Following the Commission’s first meeting in 2009, the 23 members held eight public forums across the country and consulted with the Smithsonian Institution, the National Capital Planning Commission, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, the Department of the Interior, museums and cultural institutions across the country, business and philanthropy leaders, and major national organizations.

COMMISSION FINDINGS:

  • There is a need for a national museum in Washington, DC that is devoted to the preservation, presentation, and interpretation of American Latino art, cultural expressions, and experiences; a museum that “illuminates the American story for the benefit of all.”
  • The Commission determined that a private fundraising goal of $300 million over a 10 year period is achievable. This estimate is based on an overall $600 million total cost figure, with a 50-50 split between private donations and congressional appropriations.
  • Approximately $463 million would be needed to open a national museum on the Capitol Site. Upon opening, approximately $50 million is needed annually for operations/maintenance.

COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • The Museum should be established within the Smithsonian Institution as the Smithsonian American Latino Museum. According to a statement issued by the Smithsonian, “If Congress passes legislation to establish and fund a national Latino museum-the National Museum of the American Latino-the Smithsonian would be prepared to welcome it to the Smithsonian family of museums in Washington.”
  • Congress should designate the Capitol Site as the location for the museum. The site is located at the intersections of Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues, NW and First Street, NW. It is directly adjacent to the U.S. Capitol Reflecting Pool. The Capitol Site could accommodate a building of approximately 252,000 square feet.
  • The Commission found that no federal appropriation would be necessary for the first six years upon establishment of the museum. Private donations could sufficiently fund the initial years of planning and organization that are required in the pre-design, pre-construction phase of such a project.

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