(CNN) — The legislative package passed by Congress Monday night also gives the green light to the creation of two long-awaited Smithsonian museums in the nation’s capital: one focused on Latino Americans and the other dedicated to the history of American women.
Although it could take years to conceptualize, commission and build the museums, congressional passage is a victory for museum advocates whose efforts go back decades.
The Smithsonian Women’s History Museum Act and the National Museum of the American Latino Act they were incorporated into massive legislation that included help to deal with covid-19 and government funding. A single Republican senator, Mike Lee of Utah, had blocked the passage of the two bills earlier this month.
The National Museum of the American Latino “will illuminate the history of the United States for the benefit of all by featuring Latino contributions.” It is approved decades after the Smithsonian published a report that revealed a pattern of “willful neglect,” which excluded and ignored the presence and contributions of Latino Americans both in its workforce and in its showrooms.
The American Women’s History Museum will be dedicated to documenting the contributions of women throughout the nation’s history. The museum will recognize “diverse perspectives.”
The vote is the ‘culmination of decades of hard work’
The Smithsonian Institution said in a statement that it “reviews the legislation carefully.”
“The Smithsonian has unparalleled experience building national museums and does important work telling the stories of American and Latino women. 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, ”the Smithsonian said in a statement provided to CNN on Tuesday.
Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey also referred to the approval. The legislator, a long-time advocate for a Latino museum and a main sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said the passage of the museum is the “culmination of decades of hard work, activism, successes and setbacks in the movement to recognize the Contributions of Latinos to the History, Economy and Culture of the United States ”.
“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 said in a statement Monday.
I can’t wait “until the day when I can take my granddaughters to visit the National Museum of the American Latino in our nation’s capital,” added Menéndez.
Half of the funding for both museums will be provided by federal funds. The other half will come from private donations. Museums have two years to designate a site.
Where will the new museums be located?
There are two vacant sites on the National Mall that will be considered as potential locations for the Latino or Women’s Museum. One is the southern part of the National Mall, near the Holocaust Memorial Museum, bordered by 14th Street and Jefferson Drive. The other is the northwest part steps from the Capitol, bounded by Constitution Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Smithsonian Institution’s Arts and Industries Building will also be considered for the new museum on Latinos. Also the area between 12th Street and 14th Street on the National Mall.
In 2011, a presidential commission of 23 members he estimated that a “Smithsonian Museum of the American Latino” would cost $ 600 million. This would be the total between private donations and Congressional appropriations.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated last year that a women’s history museum would cost $ 375 million over a nine-year period. The construction of the museum would add up to US $ 242 million. The staff, exhibits, program creations and operations would be priced at $ 133 million.
An ‘appropriate’ moment
“For too long, women’s stories have been left out of the narrative of our nation’s history, but with this vote we began to rectify that,” said New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney in a release.
“Americans of all ages deserve to see and be inspired by the extraordinary women who helped shape this nation. Seeing role models doing what we aspire to can change the course of someone’s life, “he added.
She also noted that it was “appropriate” for Congress to authorize a women’s history museum as the United States commemorates the centennial of the 19th Amendment and at a time when the country elected its first female vice president, Kamala Harris.
The most recent Smithsonian museum is the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It took years since Congress approved the creation in 2003 until it was finally opened to the public in 2016.
The blocking of legislator Mike Lee
The Democratic-led House of Representatives had passed the bill for a women’s museum in February. Had also approved the bill to establish a Latino museum in July by acclamation.
However, in the Senate Mike Lee blocked the passage of these two bills by unanimous consent. The legislator argued that the United States does not need “separate but equal museums.”
The Smithsonian Institution “should not have a unique museum of Latin American history or a museum of women’s history or a museum of American men’s history or Mormon history or Asian-American history or Catholic history. American history is an inclusive history that should unite us, ”Lee said in remarks earlier this month.
The massive spending bill, and the museum legislature, must now be signed by President Donald Trump.
CNN’s Paul LeBlanc and Leah Asmelash contributed to this report.
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