Latino Studies Museums
Verónica E. Betancourt, Frederick Luis Aldama
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 November 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 November 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0090


Though Latinos have a long history of actively shaping cultural phenomena in the United States, their presence within museums and museum studies has been a more recent development. Histories of Latino museums often begin in the 1960s (see Reference Works and Ríos-Bustamante and Marín 1998, cited under Latino Museum Professionals and Organizational Scholarship), thus linking the genesis of these institutions to the social justice aims of the civil rights movements. With the goal of supporting this growing field, much recent scholarship has been focused on documenting and recuperating Latino art, history, and museological contribution within the context of museum collections and archives (see Latino Archives, Collections, and Collectors). Likewise, researchers and students orienting themselves to museum studies and Latino museum studies will find Reference Works and Bibliographies provide a foothold into a basic history of Latino museums and scholarship. Anthologies offers a selection of some of the most cited edited volumes in the field. These books represent the diversity of museums and museum studies scholarship and feature texts appropriate for a range of researchers. Scholars of Latino museums often analyze how such institutions were founded in opposition to a lack of Latino representation (see Latino Museums) within survey museums, whose history is substantially discussed and theorized by museum researchers (see Critical History of Western Museums and Theory). These three sections are more theoretical and may be most useful for the museum scholar. Exhibiting Latinidad focuses on how Latino topics are represented by Latino and mainstream museums. An important aspect of museums is their engagement with visitors. Latinos are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, yet under-represented as museum visitors. Education and Community Outreach outlines major developments in contemporary museum education, as well as case studies of museums working with Latinos. Collaboration furthers examination of this work through a selection of publications that specifically detail museum-community projects that engage Latinos to represent Latino culture and history. Visitor Studies addresses how museums study visitors, including Latinos. These sections contain materials that are suitable for both the scholar and museum professional, as theory and practice are represented. Latinos are also underrepresented among museum professionals (see Latino Museum Professionals and Organizational Scholarship), which is why this article seeks to document their work within museums. Governmental and Professional Reports brings greater understanding of the political, cultural, and academic climate surrounding the work of museums. The reports highlighted contributed to major shifts among American museums that benefited Latino representation in these institutions.

Reference Works

Researchers beginning their work in Latino museum studies will find the annotated list of Latino museums, and significant Latino collections in museums, provided by the Smithsonian Latino Center a helpful entry point (Museum Resources: Latino Museums and Museums with Latino Collections). Davalos 2004 and Nunn 2005 both offer contemporary histories of Latino museums in the United States, and each encyclopedia entry features an accounting of major Latino museums and cultural centers. Nunn 2005, in particular, includes a valuable discussion on how the development of Latino museums has been influenced by and predicated on the work of Latino cultural centers. Nunn complements this discussion with a list of significant current and past Latino museums and cultural centers, which orients a novice researcher to major institutions in the field. Davalos 2004 and Nunn 2005 each begin their histories with the social movements of the 1960s and infuse their analysis with corresponding sociopolitical context. Davalos 2004 is noteworthy for its analysis of the impact Latino museums have had in their communities.

  • Davalos, Karen Mary. “Museums.” In Encyclopedia of Latino Popular Culture. Vol. 2. Edited by Cordelia Candelaria, Peter J. García, and Arturo J. Aldama, 570–573. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2004.

    This entry emphasizes the social activism that Latino museums and cultural centers have undertaken to promote representation and recognition of Latinos in the United States. Davalos provides a concise review of some of the political, historical, economic, and cultural conditions that have influenced the development of the Latino museum field.

  • Museum Resources: Latino Museums and Museums with Latino Collections.

    Featuring an annotated list of both Latino museums and museums with major Latino collections, this resource is useful to researchers to give a sense of the number of Latino museums in the United States, as well as their geographic distribution.

  • Nunn, Tey Marianna. “Museums.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States. Vol. 3. Edited by Suzanne Obolor and Deena J. González, 209–216. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1093/acref/9780195156003.001.0001

    An accessible article for newcomers to Latino museum studies that encompasses basic Latino museum history, major exhibitions, and cultural centers. The article also addresses the relationship between Latinos, whether as exhibition subjects or staff, and mainstream museums. Also available online by subscription.

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