Congress passed a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill on Monday that also greenlit the establishment of two new Smithsonian museums that will honor Latinx and women’s history, marking a victory for museum advocates who have been fighting for decades.
The Smithsonian Institution, which currently operates 19 museums and a national zoo, needs federal approval in order to construct a new museum. Utah senator Mike Lee, a Republican, cast the lone vote blocking the legislation earlier this month. Now, with the National Museum of the American Latino Act and Smithsonian Women’s History Museum Act folded into the coronavirus relief package, the legislation heads to President Donald Trump’s desk.
New Jersey senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat, said in a statement, “We have overcome tremendous obstacles and unbelievable hurdles to get to this historic moment, but, as I’ve said before, Latinos are used to overcoming obstacles. Passage of the National Museum of the American Latino is the culmination of decades of hard work, advocacy, successes and set-backs in the movement to recognize Latino contributions to America’s history, economy and culture. 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.”
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New York representative Carolyn B. Maloney, meanwhile, celebrated the passage of a women’s history museum. “For too long, women’s stories have been left out of the telling of our nation’s history, but with this vote, we begin to rectify that,” she said in a press release. “Americans of all ages deserve to see and be inspired by the remarkable women who helped shape this nation—seeing role models doing the thing to which we aspire, can change the course of someone’s life. How fitting that we pass this bill as we mark the centennial of the 19th Amendment and in the year in which we elected our first woman vice president.”
CNN reported that a Latinx history museum could cost approximately $600 million to build, while a women’s history museum could cost upward of $375 million. Currently, two vacant sites on the National Mall are being scoped out as potential locations for the new Smithsonian additions.
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