Smithsonian to Add Gallery Honoring Latino-American Culture

Posted December 7, 2018 6:05 p.m. EST

The Smithsonian Institution announced Thursday that it will add a gallery dedicated to honoring Latino-American experiences to the National Museum of American History. The addition was made possible by a $10 million lead gift from five members of the Molina family, who made the donation in memory of their father, Dr. C. David Molina, founder of Molina Healthcare Inc.

The 4,500 square foot Molina Family Latino Gallery is scheduled to open in 2021 and will focus on sharing the stories of Latino communities through multimedia activities, artifacts and first-person narratives. The inaugural exhibition, “Making Home: Latino Stories of Community and Belonging,” will explore the history of various Latino cultures in North America and their influence in the United States and elsewhere.

“Latino history is American history, and we have a responsibility to reflect the stories and experiences of Latinas and Latinos in the U.S. today,” Eduardo Díaz, director of the Smithsonian Latino Center, said in a statement. “We’ll continue to do that not only through this future gallery, but also through our diverse programmatic, educational and professional development programs.”

This is just the latest step the Smithsonian has taken to increase its Latino representation. Since 2010, the organization has hired 10 Latino curators and added eight Latino curatorial assistants. It has also made a concerted effort to devise exhibitions that highlight the contributions of Latino artists and political and social issues that affect Latino-Americans.

The Smithsonian Latino Center has existed since 1997, but the Molina Family Latino Gallery will be its first dedicated gallery space. In the past, the Center has been responsible for spearheading programming throughout the Smithsonian’s many museums and exhibition sites. Recently, it collaborated with the National Museum of the American Indian on the exhibition, “Taíno: Native Heritage and Identity in the Caribbean,” which is on view in New York until October 2019.

Though the gallery is intended for all audiences, Díaz emphasized his commitment to connecting with members of the Latino community. “At the end of the day, it’s about creating exhibitions and public programs and publications and web content that relate to a community, the diverse Latino community, who have not seen themselves represented adequately historically in museums,” he said in an interview Friday.