The National Museum of Latin America, a new Smithsonian institution, is at least a decade away from opening. Currently, it has no budget. There is no building. There is no collection. But now it has its first permanent director, Jorge Zamanillo.
“I am delighted to lead an organization that will present a big picture of diverse Latino communities,” Zamanillo said in an interview on Thursday. “By sharing those stories and narratives, people will learn about American history – that Latinos are part of American history. And it’s one of those that have been dropped. “
Zamanillo, 52, came to work from Miami, where he grew up, the son of immigrants from Cuba. Since 2000, he has worked for the community-based Museum of HistoryMiami in a variety of positions, most recently as executive director and chief executive officer. He will begin his new role on May 2.
Financing for the actual building, slated to open in 10 to 12 years, at or near the National Mall in Washington, has yet to be allocated. The same is true for collection money. Only recently, in December 2020, the new Latino museum approved by Congress, along with the National Women’s History Museum.
The project comes at a time when museums are discussing how to prioritize stories that have been historically excluded from national history documents. There has been disagreement over whether the best course of action is to integrate Latino history into existing Smithsonian museums or to dedicate one museum to exhibiting and recognizing the achievements of 60 million Americans.
During Zamanillo’s 22 years at the Miami museum, which has an annual budget of $6.2 million, he worked as curator of object collections, helping to build an archive now includes more than 40,000 objects and more than two million images and holds other management and executive positions. . (He said he had no idea how large the new museum’s acquisitions and operating budgets could be.)
Zamanillo holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Florida State University and a master’s degree in museum studies from the University of Leicester in the UK. He started his studies at Miami Dade University as a music major, a passionate trumpeter and self-proclaimed “passion band”. But a trip to Washington when he was 19 changed his life forever, he said.
“I was there for four or five days alone, and all the museums were free,” he said. “The snow was two feet thick, and I was wearing jeans and a denim jacket, so I bought a hat and scarf from one of the street vendors for, say, $5. and just hop from museum to museum.”
When he returned, he broke the news to his parents: He was changing his major – to anthropology – and moving to Florida State. He ended up working in archaeology for about a decade before joining the Miami museum.
“I have seen firsthand that museums have the power to change lives,” he said. “They can transform the way they engage the community.”
Under his leadership, exhibitions and events at the new museum will not only celebrate the achievements and resilience of Latinos, he said. The show will examine the full story of the arrival of Latinos in what will become the United States, discrimination, discrimination, prejudice, and the ongoing struggle to fit in.
“You want to make sure you do it right,” says Zamanillo. “And that means reaching out to Latinos and communities across the country to make sure their stories are being captured.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/04/arts/design/smithsonian-national-museum-of-the-american-latino-director.html Smithsonian Names First Director of the Latin American Museum