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Only on 7News: An inside look at the two newest Smithsonian Museums

WJLA – Washington D.C. logo WJLA – Washington D.C. 7/29/2021 Alison Starling
Only on 7News: An inside look at the two newest Smithsonian Museums
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At the end of last year, Congress passed legislation to create the two newest Smithsonian Museums.

Both will be somewhere on the National Mall. One will highlight women and the other, the American Latino.

Only on 7News, Alison Starling talked to the interim directors about their visions for both museums. Few museum experts get the chance to create something that will be part of our nation's landscape for generations. But that's exactly the task at hand for Lisa Sasaki and Eduardo Diaz.

Sasaki is the Interim Director of the Smithsonian American Women's History Museum, Diaz has the same title for the National Museum of the American Latino.

"I've been in the field for over 25 years it's a dream to be able to start a museum from the ground up and nothing is more important than to recognize women's history," Sasaki said.

"Really it's about representation, it's about cementing the Latino's presence at the nation's museum," Diaz said.

Both new museums were approved by Congress in December 2020, and now the real work begins.

"We want to be sure that the stories of women from all walks of life are told, diverse perspectives that shine a light on what it means not just to be a woman in America, but to be an American," Sasaki said.

Both museums have many steps to complete before they open for visitors. That will likely take at least 10 to 12 years. Diaz already made a splash when the names were released for his advisory board. It includes celebrities like Eva Longoria, Sofia Vergara, and Jose Andres.

"Jose Andres, I mean what are you going to say about him?" Diaz asked. "He's the ultimate humanitarian!"

These will be the nation's first new Smithsonian museums since the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in 2016. You'll be able to see some of the American Latino exhibits beginning next year inside the Museum of American History. Sasaki, a fourth-generation Japanese American, says she is excited by this daunting challenge.

"My mother, my grandmothers, are and have been such an important part of my life, and I don't think any of them, any of my foremothers would have imagined I would have been in the position today to tell their stories and the stories of all women across the United States," Sasaki said.

And Diaz says it's time to bring the many diverse cultures within the American Latino community together, and tell their collective story.

"Latinos have made foundational contributions to literally building this country and shaping its national culture," he said.

The Women's Museum will announce its board members in August. Both museums must pick a location on or near the National Mall by the end of next year. They could move into a space that already exists, or build something from the ground up.


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