President Biden signed a law Monday establishing a commission of experts to study the creation of a museum dedicated to Asian American and Pacific Islander history.
The group, which will include experts of AAPI history and museum administrators appointed by lawmakers, will weigh various factors related to how the proposed institution would be funded and managed. If realized, the institution will be apart of the Smithsonian’s network of national museums in Washington, D.C.
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The law, formally titled the Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture Act, was first introduced by New York Democratic Rep. Grace Meng last year. In a subcommittee hearing held in December, Meng said that members of the AAPI community are often “excluded or forgotten in history, despite their “contributions to our infrastructure, economy, selfless military service, and so much more.”
In a ceremony that took place at the White House earlier this week, Biden touted plans for the museum, calling it “long overdue.” Some of the bill sponsors have said the move comes at a critical time of public reckoning around the injustices faced by U.S. citizens of Asian American descent.
“Museums of this magnitude and consequence are going to inspire and educate. More than anything else, it’s going to help people see themselves in the story of America,” he said.
The bill is among other recent efforts by lawmakers to promote Asian American history. New Jersey and Illinois recently passed state bills requiring that Asian American history be taught in public schools.
Anti-Asian American violence has spiked in recent years, with some analyses suggesting the number of such incidents has jumped as much as 11 times since the start of the pandemic.
Biden remarked that the bill signing comes one year after the Atlanta spa shootings and the 80th anniversary of 120,000 Japanese Americans being detained on U.S. soil during World War II.
In the press conference after the signing, Vice President Kamala Harris, who is the first person of South Asian descent to serve in the executive office role, said the museum aims to acknowledge periods of the nation’s past in which Asian Americans have been subjugated. The museum will address the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, the internment of Japanese Americans, and post-9/11 discrimination against South Asian Americans, among other national episodes, Harris said.
In order for the national museum to be built, another bill would have to pass Congress. Congress approved plans in 2003 to build a National Museum of African American History. It finally opened to the public more than a decade later in 2016.