As the US prepares for the inauguration of 46th president Joe Biden tomorrow, there will soon be two new additions to the National Mall museum complex that the president-elect will pass by on his route to the ceremony.
Late last year, in news that was subsequently overshadowed by the shocking siege of the Capitol building on 6 January, the Smithsonian Institution was given the go ahead by Congress to build a pair of new museums, the National Museum of the American Latino and the American Women’s History Museum.
To realise the projects, the institution will work with the American Women’s History Initiative and the Smithsonian Latino Center, the team behind the Molina Family Latino Gallery that is due to open at the National Museum of American History next year.
“Passage of the National Museum of the American Latino is the culmination of decades of hard work, advocacy, successes and set-backs in the movement to recognise Latino contributions to America's history, economy and culture,” said senator Bob Menedez in a statement. “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.”
The museums will be the Smithsonian’s first major building projects since the $540m National Museum of African American History and Culture opened to the public in 2016. While final sites for the new projects are still to be confirmed, the bill states that the museums must join the institution’s 19 other landmarks located on or near the National Mall.
In the Smithsonian’s fiscal year 2021, the institution was allocated $1.033bn from the federal budget, a slight decrease from the previous year’s $1.047bn. The 2021 budget does not include funding for the two new museum projects, which will be incorporated into future budgets and financed equally via federal funding and private donations.
The announcement followed news that the Smithsonian Institution and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London have abandoned plans for an international curatorial partnership, as part of the new V&A East museum opening in 2023. In a joint statement last year, the institutions listed “evolving strategic priorities” in the “context of the effects of Covid-19” as reasons behind the decision.
To replace the collaboration, the museums will refocus their efforts to expand the STEP internship programme: a scheme aimed at young people to promote diversity in the creative industries and to evolve the next generation of cultural leaders.