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The Smithsonian picks four potential locations for women’s and Latino museums

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The Smithsonian narrowed its search of the sites of the future National Museum of Latin American and Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum to four locations on the National Mall.

The historic Arts and Industries Building, on Jefferson Drive SW adjacent to the Smithsonian Administration Building known as the Castle, is the only site with a structure and the only one under Smithsonian control.

The other three options are undeveloped land: the North West Capitol site, located on the east side of the Mall north of the Capitol Reflecting Pool; the South Monument site, on Jefferson Drive SW, across from the National Museum of African American History and Culture mall; and the Tidal Basin site, home to a rugby pitch and bordered by Raoul Wallenberg Place SW and Maine Avenue SW.

The United States Capitol has jurisdiction over the Northwest Capitol site, and the rest are controlled by the National Park Service. The Arts and Industries Building was envisioned for the African American Museum.

Their proximity to the mall led to their selection, said Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III.

“Thinking about the African American museum, I understood the power of having sites on or near the mall,” said Bunch, the museum’s director. founding director. “It was not my endgame. The process has brought us to this moment, but I understand the power of this symbolism.

In December 2020, Congress authorized the Smithsonian to establish the two museums and set a two-year deadline for selecting their locations. The institution hired the Baltimore Ayers Saint Gross design office to analyze the sites according to six criteria: the symbolism of the place, the existing conditions of the site, access to transport, environmental factors, the cost and the challenges of acquiring the site. The company started with more than two dozen possibilities; the Smithsonian revealed at a public hearing in March that it had narrowed the options down to 14.

Congress authorizes Smithsonian museums focused on Latin Americans and women’s history

Officials will continue to evaluate the four finalists while consulting with members of Congress, the National Capital Planning Commission, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the Capitol’s architect, as required by authorizing legislation. The Smithsonian The Board of Regents is expected to meet the Congress deadline by choosing two sites before the end of the year.

“There is no perfect site,” Bunch said, noting that ongoing analysis will reveal the trade-offs each site has. Officials will need to weigh the size and design challenges of each site and the barriers to land acquisition. The Arts and Industries building will need to be studied to find out how it can be reinvented as a 21st century museum, he said.

Latino Museum backers push for pride of place on National Mall

Defenders of the museums have pushed for them to be built on the mall, considered by many to be the lawn of the country. The two newest Smithsonians, the African American Museum, which opened in 2016, and the National Museum of the American Indian, which opened in 2004, sit at opposite ends of this symbolic space.

Finding a place for each new museum is now more difficult because open space on or near the mall is limited, Bunch said, and finding two at the same time is even more difficult.

“It’s a bit like having children. You have two kids, it’s not just twice the work,” Bunch said. “You want to make sure that each museum feels it has received the respect, the attention, the visibility that it deserves.”

The Board of Regents announcement comes days after the opening of the Molina Family Latino Gallery at the National Museum of American History. As a precursor to Latino museum, gallery will host exhibits and programs until the museum opens.

The Smithsonian has assembled advisory boards for both museums. Jorge Zamanillo was hired as founding director of the Latino Museum earlier this year. Officials interview candidates for the position of director of the Women’s History Museum.

Zamanillo said he was excited about all the options.

“Whatever the choice, I’m sure we’ll build a significant and amazing museum,” he said. “But what impresses me the most is the rigor and transparency of the process. We informed everyone, met people from the community, national and local leaders of Latin American organizations. For me, it’s the best thing that came out of it. »

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