Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women’s museums to be built on National Mall

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)
Greg Nash

A group of senators on Monday called on the Smithsonian Institution to commit to building the upcoming National Museum of the American Latino and Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

In a letter to Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch, the bipartisan group of senators wrote the two museums should “be located on or near the National Mall, to the maximum extent practicable.”

Both museum projects were approved by Congress in 2020, and the Smithsonian named the Latino museum’s board of trustees in June and the women’s history museum advisory board in August.

The museums’ boards are in charge of the site selection processes — Bunch is an ex-officio member of both boards.

Space on the National Mall is at a premium — the most recent major construction within the capital’s preeminent national park is the National Museum of African American History and Culture, finished in 2016.

The movement to create the two new museums has been pushing for decades to find official approval and the promise of funding — obtained in 2020 — and spaces on the National Mall, a place visited by 25 million people each year.

Supporters of the museum projects argue other locations would imply a lesser status for the museums, compared to the Smithsonian’s existing venues.

“The addition of the two new museums on the Mall will further the Smithsonian’s mission by showcasing and highlighting the untold and overlooked contributions to our nation of both women and Latinos,” wrote the senators.

“It is fitting that these two museums be prominently located as that will help ensure that more visitors will be able to enjoy and learn from them,” they added.

Various specific locations have been discussed for the museums, including the existing Arts and Industries Building, which has a prime location on the Mall but lesser square footage than most modern museum projects.

There is some debate as to what land exactly the National Mall comprises, but the Senate letter defined the area as “the two-mile park from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, bounded on the north and south by Constitution and Independence Avenues.”

That definition would exclude from contention the Upper and Lower Senate Parks, which have also been considered as potential museum sites, despite pushback from some Capitol officials who have been reluctant to give up the area, which includes parking for the Senate.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) led the letter. He was joined by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

A similar letter was led in the House by Reps. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). They were joined by a bipartisan group of 70 representatives.

Tags Alex Padilla Ben Cardin Bob Menendez Carolyn Maloney Chris Van Hollen Chuck Schumer Cory Booker Dianne Feinstein Ed Markey Elizabeth Warren Jacky Rosen Jeff Merkley John Cornyn Maggie Hassan Marco Rubio Martin Heinrich Mazie Hirono Michael Bennet Patty Murray Sheldon Whitehouse Smithsonian Susan Collins Tammy Baldwin Tina Smith Women's History Museum

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