Washington Lawmakers Take a Step Toward Establishing a New D.C. Museum Dedicated to Asian Pacific American History

The House of Representatives has passed a bill to study the museum's feasibility. Now, it heads to the Senate. 

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng speaks during an event in Forest Hills, New York on October 22, 2021. Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images.
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng speaks during an event in Forest Hills, New York on October 22, 2021. Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill yesterday, April 26, laid the groundwork for a national museum dedicated to Asian Pacific American history and culture.

In an afternoon session, members of the House of Representatives unanimously voted to establish a committee to study the possibility of building the institution in Washington, D.C. It’s the first of many required in the long bureaucratic process that goes into establishing a new federal museum. Now the bill, introduced three years ago by U.S. Rep. Grace Meng from New York, will head to the Senate. 

If the institution is approved, it could join the National Museum of the American Latino and the American Women’s History Museum, both of which were approved in late December 2020 and are now in development.

During the floor debate, Congresswoman Meng cited the historic contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders dating back to the 1700s, including the Chinese American laborers who helped build the transcontinental railroad and the workers who fought for fair working conditions during the Hawaii sugar strike of 1946.

“Yet, those contributions are often unheard of and simply forgotten,” the representative said. “It is time to change that. A national museum dedicated to collecting, preserving, and displaying these tales is long overdue.”

If passed into law, the bill would establish an eight-person commission tasked with exploring the feasibility of having the museum in the capital city, possibly under the umbrella of the Smithsonian Institution.

Experts in museum planning and Asian Pacific American history would make up the group, each appointed by the House Speaker, Senate Majority Leader, House Minority Leader, and Senate Minority Leader.

The commission would be granted 18 months to complete its review process, after which a report would be compiled and sent to Congress. 

Congresswoman Meng’s office did not respond to Artnet News’s request for further comment.

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