September 12, 2018

On Sept. 10, 2018, the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative and the Chicano Studies Research Center, both at UCLA, released a study on Latina/o representation within the Smithsonian’s workforce, programming, collections and exhibitions. The groups looked at 10 recommendations made in a 1994 Smithsonian task-force report on these areas.

Below is the Smithsonian’s progress for each of the 10 recommendations.

1. Ensure Latino representation in institutional governance and executive ranks

The Board of Regents is composed of 17 members: As specified in the Smithsonian's charter, the Chief Justice of the United States and the Vice President of the United States are ex officio members of the Board; the Chief Justice also serves as the Chancellor of the Smithsonian. There are also six members of Congress, and nine citizens who are nominated by the Board of Regents and appointed for a statutory term of six years by a Joint Resolution of the Congress, which is then signed into law by the President. The geographical representation on the Board is dictated by the 1846 enabling legislation. The Smithsonian Secretary and staff do not appoint individuals to the Board of Regents.

Regarding the senior leadership of the Institution, the Board of Regents, Secretary and leadership team are committed to fostering and developing a diverse workforce, most especially at senior levels. 

2. Ensure Latino representation in total workforce

Current Smithsonian workforce as of March 2018:

White                                                 57.2%                         

African American                                 29.9%

Hispanic                                                  5%                              

Asian                                                    6.3%

Native American                                    1.4%

Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander               .2%


Senior Level

Latino                                                     3%


Senior Leadership (11)

Male:                                                      5

Female:                                                  6

Of the 11 senior leaders, one is an African American woman and one is Latina.  

3. Create new office to address 1994 task force’s recommendations

The Smithsonian Latino Center was established in 1997.

4. Initiate process for new Latino Smithsonian Museum

Creating a new museum does not start with the Smithsonian. Rather, this process must begin with Congress, as it did for the establishment of the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

5. & 8. Permanent Latino presence in the collection and programs of Smithsonian

Extensive programs, including exhibitions, public programs and educational outreach, were acknowledged in the UCLA report. (A full 16-page report from the Smithsonian Latino Center is available.)

6. Ensure core funding for new and existing Latino initiatives

The federal funding for the Latino Initiatives Pool, which provides grants to the Smithsonian museums and research centers for Latino-related positions and programs, is now $2 million per year. It doubled in FY 2015 and has remained at that level. In addition, the Latino Center had $529,000 in federal support (FY 2018) and raised an additional $1.3 million in private funding. Some Smithsonian museums also raise their own funds for Latino projects; those figures are not included here.

7. Establish and enforce accountability to Latino initiatives

The director of the Smithsonian Latino Center reports directly to the Provost who is responsible for the Center and holds it accountable for meeting its goals and adhering to its mission. In addition, the Center is supported by a 14-member advisory board.

9. Request GAO study on Latino participation across Smithsonian components

The GAO conducts studies at the request of Congress. 

10. Develop firm plan for Latino inclusion in the Smithsonian

There has been notable progress in the 24 years since the Willful Neglect report was issued, especially in curatorial staffing, public and educational programming, exhibitions, collections, research and digital outreach. However, we recognize that there is still much work to be done, especially in increasing Latino representation among senior staff at the Institution.

# # #