Established in 1997, the Smithsonian’s Latino Center promotes dialogue on the role of museums in Latino community development. However, don’t start planning a visit to the center on your next trip to DC. While the Latino Center will soon have its own gallery within the National Museum of American History, it currently does not have a physical home. Without a material space, the Latino Center has taken to the internet to show its exhibits.
Currently, the Latino Center has eight online exhibits on Google Arts & Culture covering topics ranging from archeology of Central America to the Day of the Dead. Among these, the center has two DC-specific exhibits.
The first exhibit which focuses on DC’s Latino community is a virtual tour the city’s Latino street murals. Using Google maps images, the virtual tour shows murals throughout the city in the places where they are located. The accompanying text does not offer much information about the murals beyond the artist and location. However, being able to look at the murals in context allows you to better imagine how people in the community view these murals. For example, “Currulao y Desplazamiento: the Afro-Colombian Mural” is located in an alley off of a commercial street. From the main street, only part of the mural is visible. Navigating down the alley allows you to see the full mural from a different angle. Further, the time lapse between the two views shows the mural in different stages of completion.
The virtual mural tour also allows you to look more closely at some of these murals than you may be able to in person. The Klingle Road murals span a retaining wall along Klingle Road. Passing in a car, you may not be able to look at each panel, which depict images ranging from soccer players, whales, and a tank firing on someone. Google maps allows the viewer to stop and take in each painting.
The second online exhibit entitled “Latino DC: Local, National, & Global Stories Come Together” tells the history of one of the nation’s most diverse Latino communities. The exhibit traces the origins of the Latin community to the development of embassies in the early 1900s through different waves of immigration and migration in the latter half of the century. “Latino DC” also highlights some components of the city’s present Latino community including non-profit organizations, researchers, and scholars. The exhibit presents a broad overview of the city’s Latino history and would work well as an orientation prior to visiting the future physical Latino Center.
The Latino Center’s online offering provide an exciting glimpse into what the future Latino Center gallery may hold. Hopefully, these robust online offerings will one day be translated into a full museum dedicated to Latino history. Check out the online exhibits here!