Latino museum recommended for Mall (The Examiner, 5/5/2011)

Latino museum recommended for Mall (The Examiner, 5/5/2011)

By: Liz Farmer 05/05/11 8:05 PM

A federal commission is asking Congress to establish a new museum next to the Capitol dedicated to Latino American history and culture.

The report, released Thursday and endorsed by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, calls for Congress to create a museum that would commemorate the fastest-growing population in the country and serve as “a gateway to the National Mall.” It calls for a 50-50 split between private fundraising and federal dollars to raise $600 million over 10 years to plan and build the museum. It also stipulates that no federal funding would be needed for the first six years.

“The commission … recognizes that it must balance two vital priorities: not contributing to any new federal expenditure in the short term, while clearly moving forward with a national museum that integrates the Latino experience into the American narrative,” the report said.

The report was issued by the National Museum of the American Latino Commission, which was established in 2008 by Congress and has 23 members, including actress Eva Longoria.

But getting a new Smithsonian Institution museum is no easy task, and it will likely be more than a decade before ground breaks on a Latino heritage museum. The National Museum of the American Indian was created in 1989 and opened in 2004; the National Museum of African American History and Culture was founded in 2003 and is expected to open in 2015, according to Linda St. Thomas, a Smithsonian spokeswoman.

First, Congress passes legislation founding the museum, then it passes a separate appropriations bill to fund it.

That process “can take years,” and “with the budget situation now, I don’t think one should assume you get all money you ask for each year,” St. Thomas said.

And even though the Latino Museum proposes self-funding for its first six years, the economic climate for nonprofits remains uncertain. The privately funded National Women’s History Museum has been entrenched in its own effort to build a museum on the National Mall since 1996.

The women’s history group is now pushing legislation through Congress that was tabled last session to buy land on the Mall near 12th Street and Independence Avenue.

“One of the reasons we looked at going private was because we thought we could make it happen quicker,” said Joan Wages, the museum president. “It’s a long road either way.”

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