The forthcoming National Museum of the American in Washington, D.C., has named Jorge Zamanillo as its inaugural director, beginning May 2. He will take over for Eduardo Díaz, director of the Smithsonian’s Latino Center, who has served as the institution’s interim director while the search for a permanent director was underway.
Managed by the Smithsonian Institution, the new museum was established by Congress in December, along with the American Women’s History Museum, “to illuminate the story of the United States for the benefit of all by featuring Latino contributions to the art, history and culture of the nation since its early history.”
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Zamanillo is currently the executive director of the HistoryMiami Museum in Florida, which is a Smithsonian Affiliate institution. During his tenure, he organized numerous exhibitions, including “Operation Pedro Pan: The Cuban Children’s Exodus” in 2015 and a rehang of the museum’s permanent collection galleries, titled “Tropical Dreams: A People’s History of Southern Florida,” and helped establish its Center for Photography. He started at the institution as a curator of object collections in 2000 and was promoted to senior curator and then deputy director before becoming executive director. In addition to managing the HistoryMiami Museum’s $6.2 million budget, Zamanillo spearheaded a $45 million expansion project that was completed in 2016.
In a statement, Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III, who was founding director of National Museum of African American History and Culture when it opened in 2016, said, “Jorge’s accomplishments at HistoryMiami Museum highlight his commitment to exploring the full sweep of the American story by bringing to life the complex and profound narratives of Latinos in the United States. His transformational leadership will be invaluable as we build this necessary museum from the ground up, helping us create a robust, dynamic, responsive museum that exemplifies what a 21st-century cultural institution should be.”
Zamanillo was selected from a 10-person committee that included Díaz; Anthea Hartig, director of the National Museum of American History; Kevin Young, director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture; Taína Caragol, curator for Latino art and history at the National Portrait Gallery; and Kevin Gover, Under Secretary for Museums and Culture, who served as chair.
In a statement, Zamanillo said, “The Latino experience is American history, and I want to make sure our story will be preserved for future generations. This museum will celebrate Latino accomplishments and resiliency through powerful stories that capture the adversity faced over centuries by Latinos in the U.S. and their perseverance to move forward and create a legacy.”