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Congress has just approved Smithsonian museums dedicated to Latinx and women's history

The museums are a formal way to recognize these communities' contributions to American history, which have largely been neglected.

Congress has just approved Smithsonian museums dedicated to Latinx and women's history
Image Source: Getty Images/ Juneteenth Marked With Celebrations And Marches In Cities Across America. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla)

Congress managed to pass a massive legislation package earlier last week on Monday. Among many other inclusions, the package gives the go-ahead on the establishment of two long-awaited Smithsonian museums: one dedicated to American Latinx history and another focused on American women's history. The museums have been highly anticipated for several decades now. While it may take some time for the museums to be conceptualized, curated, and built, the approval from Congress is a major achievement for those who have been advocating for them. The museums will be created under the Smithsonian Women's History Museum Act and the National Museum of the American Latino Act, CNN reports.




The bills were passed almost unanimously, with only one Republican Senator blocking their passage earlier this month. The Senator was Mike Lee of Utah. Nonetheless, it has since been passed. The American Latinx museum is set to "illuminate the story of the United States for the benefit of all by featuring Latinx contributions." While this may not offset the "willful neglect" of Latinx Americans in the United States, as described by the Smithsonian in a report decades earlier, it is an important first step in recognizing the community's rich history in the country.




The American women's history museum, meanwhile, will document women's contributions throughout the history of the United States. The museum is expected to recognize "diverse perspectives," which implies curators will take an intersectional approach, particularly with regard to race. At present, the Smithsonian Institution is "reviewing the legislation carefully," they shared in a statement. "The Smithsonian has unparalleled experience building national museums, and is already doing significant work to tell the stories of American Women and Latinos," the Smithsonian affirmed. "We look forward to building two world-class museums to further amplify these stories and help our country learn more about the impact that women and Latinos have had on the fabric of our nation."




Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, a longtime advocate of the Latinx history museum, was the lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate. He said its passage was 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." "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," he asserted in a statement. "[I] 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."




Half of the funding for both museums will come from federal reserves, while the other half is expected to come through private donations. The Latinx history museum is expected to cost $600 million, whereas the women's history museum would cost $375 million over a period of nine years. Construction of the museum will add up to $242 million, and staffing, exhibits, and program creations, in addition to operations, will total $133 million. The museums have been given two years to designate respective sites. Some of the potential locations include two vacant sites on the National Mall. For now, the bills head to President Donald Trump's desk for his signature.



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