Plans move forward for Molina Family Latino Gallery at the Smithsonian

For now, the walls are gray in an empty exhibit space on the first floor of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington D.C.

But in two years, the 4,500-square-foot location will hold the museum’s first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of Latinos in the United States, with immersive multimedia activities, rotating exhibits and first-person narratives.

Eduardo Diaz, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Latino Center, said the exhibit is a milestone for the museum. 

“For the first time, the Smithsonian will have a designated space to tell the story of Latinos,” he said in an interview Monday.

Space for the future Molina Family Latino Gallery at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum.

The gallery space was made possible through a lead gift of $10 million last year from Long Beach’s Molina family. The five Molina siblings—Mario, Martha, John, Janet and Josephine—made the donation in honor of their father, Dr. C. David Molina, a physician and founder of Molina Healthcare.

(John Molina is a founding partner of Pacific6, the company that owns Long Beach Post.)

While construction was held up slightly by the government shutdown, officials expect the gallery to open by the summer of 2021, Diaz said.

The gallery will be located on the first floor of the American History Museum across from an exhibit called “Food: Transforming the American Table.”

The opening exhibit, Making Home: Latino Stories of Home and Belonging, will introduce visitors to the history of Latinos in the U.S. and invite them to reexamine what they know about Latinos and U.S. history.

Diaz said there will also be a quality, online gallery for those, including working-class families from Long Beach, who may not have the means to travel to the National Mall.

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].