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San Francisco's Mexican Museum joins Smithsonian network

January 31, 2012 |  6:30 pm

Viva Paredes' "My Pocha Tongues," part of the Mexican Museum’s current exhibition

The Mexican Museum in San Francisco might have to update its relationship status. The museum of Latino art and culture has joined the Smithsonian Institution’s Affiliations program, the nation’s largest museum network.

The partnership announced Tuesday allows the Mexican Museum access to the Smithsonian’s collection of more than 136 million artworks and artifacts. The Mexican Museum is the first San Francisco museum to become a Smithsonian affiliate.

“This collaborative partnership will allow San Franciscans to benefit from the Smithsonian’s unparalleled collections, ensures our museums reflect the rich tapestry that is American diversity, and recognizes the enormous contributions Mexican Americans have made to our nation,” Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said in a statement.

Founded by San Francisco artist Peter Rodriguez in 1975 in the Mission District and now at Fort Mason Center, the Mexican Museum’s collection includes some 14,000 objects spanning more than 4,000 years of art history.

And more updates are in the works: The museum is planning to break ground next year on a new 40,000-square-foot facility near downtown San Francisco.

Though the Smithsonian designation for the Mexican Museum is San Francisco's first, a raft of Los Angeles-area institutions -- including the California Science Center, the Japanese American Museum and the beleaguered La Plaza de Cultura y Artes -- already have the relationship with the Smithsonian. Other Southern California Smithsonian affiliates include the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach.

Jonathan Yorba, the Mexican Museum’s chief executive, is chairman of Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino, a private, nonprofit group that's pushing for creation of a new museum on the National Mall that would be part of the Smithsonian. A bill before Congress would designate the Smithsonian’s now-vacant Arts and Industries Building as the Latino museum’s site and authorize planning to go forward.

Renovating and adding underground galleries to the historic structure would cost an estimated $402-million, to be split between private donations and federal outlays. A preliminary report on the project estimates annual operating costs of $47 million, with 40% to be federally funded.

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--Jamie Wetherbe

Photo: Viva Paredes' "My Pocha Tongues," part of the Mexican Museum’s current exhibition. Credit: Smeeta Mahanti


 
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