Photo: Museum of the American Indian
In September of this year Congress will be deciding on whether to have a museum, dedicated to the American Latino and their contributions, go up in Washington D.C. and become part of the Smithsonian museum Mall.
The National Museum of the American Latino was conceptualized in 2008 and had a two-year mandate to present its case to Congress. The Museum exists only in name and concept with a 23 member appointed commission, made up of a venerable who’s who amongst Hispanic Americans. Some notable Latinos involved are music mogul Emilio Estefan, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Eva Longoria Parker.
Given the current political climate and the majority of Hispanics feeling discriminated against with the anti-immigration rhetoric, many feel this is the right time for this type of museum. The museum would become a home to historical artifacts, images and personal stories chronicling over 500 years of Latino contributions to the U.S.
Economic realities, limited government resources for museums and stagnant attendance in other ethno-centric museums beg the question: Is the American Latino Museum Still a Good Idea?
Numerous museums celebrating Hispanic American’s, Hispanic culture and arts already exist. New York has El Museo del Barrio, Chicago has the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, Idaho has a Hispanic Cultural Center and the list goes on. Congress is not limited to agreeing to place the National Museum in Washington other cities can apply to bring it to their city. Case in point, Austin, Texas recently pleaded its case to Congress even though it does not have as large of a Hispanic population as other cities.
So would many travel just to Washington to see a “national” museum? Some experts think the audience will come from people already going to the Smithsonian’s other museums especially its popular National Air and Space Museum. However, its most recent new museum, which is also ethno-centric, has waning numbers.
The National Museum of the American Indian opened in 2005 with 2.2 million in audience in its first year and that audience has since been reduced by 50%. Its primary audience are Native Americans visiting the D.C. area or already living in the area but there has not been a surge in visitors from the general public – something a museum needs in order to survive. There are approximately 60,000 Hispanics in D.C. but an estimated 45 million living throughout the U.S. and identified as the fastest growing population segment.
With these numbers one thing is for sure there will be a National Museum of and for the American Latino somewhere.