Two new national museums will be created at the Smithsonian under a proposal that was included in the $900 billion government funding package that passed Congress and was signed into law by the president last weekend. The museums will be dedicated to women and Latinos, two groups of people who have historically been ignored and silenced.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who authored the legislation to create the National Museum of the American Latino with Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said it was an effort 25 years in the making.
“Many Americans simply aren’t aware of the vast contributions made by these men and women who have come before us, and one critical way we can right this wrong is by providing a home for their stories in the nation’s capital,” Cornyn said.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, helped spearhead legislation to create a national women’s museum.
“Surely, in a year where we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, this is the time, this is the moment,” she said.
New museums at the Smithsonian require federal legislation to be created; the last new museum was the Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in September 2016.
Despite being held up earlier this year by a Utah senator who said he didn’t want to “further divide an already divided nation,” these two new museums have broad bipartisan support in Congress. The bills supporting their funding passed through Sen. Roy Blunt’s Rules Committee last month, and both were approved unanimously.
“Our American story cannot be told without recognizing the significant role women and Latinos have had in shaping the nation we are today,” said Blunt, a Republican from Missouri. “These two new museums will preserve, celebrate and share the significant historical and cultural contributions made by women and Latinos. These important additions to the Smithsonian will educate and inspire millions of visitors in the years ahead.”
We couldn’t have said it better. The history of this nation isn’t complete without recognizing the lives of countless women and Latino individuals, without documenting their challenges and struggles, their accomplishments and achievements.
We should know their names and their faces, and we should be able to understand the role they played in the development of the U.S. These museums will go a long way toward telling the stories of two groups of people without whom this country would not exist.
Maybe we’ll even see some familiar local names, such as Annie White Baxter, the Jasper County clerk and the first female county clerk in the U.S., show up in the museums. Who knows?