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Smithsonian Latino Center (SLC)

Eduardo Díaz, Director

The Smithsonian Latino Center (SLC) is the corazón of Latinidad at the Smithsonian. Since 1997, SLC has worked collaboratively with Smithsonian museums and research centers, ensuring that the contributions of the Latino community in the arts, history, and scientific achievement are explored, celebrated and preserved. We support research, exhibitions, public and educational programs, web-based content, and collections and archives. We also manage leadership and professional development programs for Latino youth, emerging scholars and museum professionals.

The Center:

In collaboration with Smithsonian units and affiliated organizations across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and through its management of the Latino Initiatives Pool, the SLC provides funding, technical assistance and management services in support of the following:

·       The Latino Curatorial Initiative, a multi-year program placing Latino curators and content experts in Smithsonian museums, research centers and its traveling exhibition service.

·       Latino research, exhibitions, public and educational programs, web content, and collections and archives in collaboration with Smithsonian units and its affiliated organizations across the Unites States and Puerto Rico.

·       Latino Museum Studies Program, a pathway program for emerging Latino scholars and museum professionals through its undergraduate, graduate, and post graduate programs.

·       The Molina Family Latino Gallery at the National Museum of American History, is the Smithsonian Latino Center’s first physical museum space. Opening in the spring of 2022, it will celebrate the richness and diversity of the U.S. Latino experience. This unique and interpretive gallery will offer exciting temporary exhibitions and engaging educational and cultural programs over the course of ten years.

·       Young Ambassadors Program, a leadership development program for graduating high school, college-bound Latinos.

Programs and Research Projects

The Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum (LVM) is a trans-media hub for 2-D and 3-D collections, online games, simulations, virtual worlds and innovative programs in real-time, STEAM curriculum based bilingual eProducts and trainings, highlighting Smithsonian art and science collections. This virtual museum highlights the vast and rich collections, research and scholarship, exhibitions, and educational activities of the Smithsonian Institution as they relate to U.S. Latinos. The LVM offers interactive trans-media storytelling (telling a single story through multiple formats) with online games, virtual worlds and digitized collections. The LVM offers teachers and students engaging tools that connect STEAM learning to Latino cultural heritage. SLC has continued groundbreaking research, development and assessment of ‘real-time 3D collaborative spaces’ for immersive learning that has served as a primary test bed and working virtual museum model. During the 2015 fiscal year, various aspects of LVM are being assessed through curriculum based bilingual eProducts, teacher training workshops, audience studies, and an environmental scan of product and outreach.

The Caribbean Indigenous Legacies Project is a collaborative research effort by the Smithsonian Latino Center, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the National Museum of Natural History. Supported by a network of partnering institutions and scholars, it focuses on documenting Indigenous communities in the Caribbean, and exploring the cultural and historical legacies of Native peoples across the region. Research areas include agricultural traditions, spirituality and medicine, family and community histories, maroon communities, material cultural, and heritage recovery. A bilingual exhibition featuring iconic artifacts from the Smithsonian’s archeological and ethnographic collections is under development for 2017.

The Latino DC History Project is a multi-year initiative to document, preserve, and share the stories of Latino/as in the institutions, culture, economy and daily life of the nation’s capital. This project has roots in prior Smithsonian research on Washington’s local Latino community conducted by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and the Anacostia Community Museum, and is also connected to an ongoing Smithsonian research initiative on immigration and migration. The Latino DC History Project is a collaborative effort that is developing a series of neighborhood-based exhibits, displays, and place markers which connects local stories with national politics and global history. The project’s public program series began in 2010, and has engaged artists, scholars, youth, educators, and families in documenting and interpreting our local stories.

Research Staff

The Smithsonian Latino Center (SLC) does not have curators on staff. It contributes to Latino/a/x Studies at the Smithsonian through its support of the Latino Curatorial Initiative, a cohort of Latino/a/x content experts working in Latino history, art, and culture. These individuals are supported by SLC through the Latino Initiatives Pool, a federal fund managed by SLC.  These individuals conduct research, organize exhibitions and public programs, inform educational programs and web content, and build collections and archives that reflect the contributions of Latinos to the United States.

At present, SLC supports curators and content experts at the following museums and centers: Archives of American Art (Josh T. Franco, PhD, National Collector), Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (Amalia Córdova, PhD Latino Digital Curator), Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum (Christina De Leon, Associate Curator of Latino Design), National Museum of African American History and Culture (Ariana Curtis, PhD Museum Curator, Latinx Studies), National Museum of American History (María Daniela Z. Jiménez, PhD, Archivist of Latino History and Culture; Verónica A. Méndez, PhD, Curator of Division of Political and Military History; and Margaret Salazar-Porzio, PhD, Curator, Division of Home and Community Life ), National Museum of American Indian (L. Antonio Curet, PhD Curator of Archeology), and the National Portrait Gallery (Taína Caragol, PhD, Curator of Painting and Sculpture and Latino Art and History). The Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Services (Maria del Carmen Cossu, Project Director for Latino Initiatives) does not generate academic research, but is a participant of the Latino Curatorial Initiative. 

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