Bipartisan House Resolution Asks Obama to Study Creating Museum About Making of the American People
A bipartisan House resolution introduced today asks President Obama for a bipartisan presidential commission to study creation of a new national museum that would tell the migration and immigration history of every group in the nation.
The National Museum of the American People would begin the story with the first humans in the Western Hemisphere and the first Europeans to come to the New World. The story runs through the most recent groups to arrive.
“The United States is a nation of immigrants,” said Rep. Jim Moran, D-VA, sponsor of the resolution. “But there is no place today where one can go to learn the stories of the many vibrant ethnicities that make up the fabric of the American experience. The Museum of the American People would bring together all the stories of the ethnicities that make up the fabric of our society.”
“As Congress begins to look at reforming our immigration system,” Moran said, “the Museum of the American People can contribute to the debate by highlighting the role immigration has played in our nation's history, recognizing the differences that set us apart while celebrating the common purpose that has brought us together.”
A coalition of more than 150 organizations representing the spectrum of American ethnic and minority groups have come together to back this effort. The coalition is not seeking federal appropriations to plan, build or operate the museum.
“The museum will show how people from every land helped our nation become the world’s economic, military, scientific and cultural leader,” said Sam Eskenazi, director of the Coalition for the National Museum of the American People. “We have bipartisan support for this.”
“My district in East Tennessee was settled heavily by Scotch Irish, and today, it has become one of the most popular places to move to in the entire country,” said Rep. John Duncan, R-TN, a cosponsor of the resolution and co-chair of the Congressional Friends of Scotland Caucus. “No other nation in the world has a more diverse people, and this museum will be an important tool in telling these many stories.”
“The museum will embody our original national motto: E Pluribus Unum, from many we are one,” said Eskenazi. “In the process of telling the story about the making of the American People, the museum will help fulfill the first three words of our Constitution by telling who ‘We the People’ are.”
“Every American will want to come to learn their own group’s story,” Eskenazi said. “At the same time, they will learn everyone else’s story. Foreigners will flock here to learn how natives from their own countries contributed to our nation’s greatness.”
“It is time that the United States has a national museum telling the story of the making of the American People,” he said. “In the capitals of Canada and Mexico, museums telling their stories are the most visited in those nations.” He urged President Obama to create the study commission as soon as possible.
Groups supporting this effort represent African Americans, Irish Americans, German Americans, Italian Americans, Jewish Americans, Arab Americans, English Americans, French Americans, American Indians, Hispanic and Latino Americans, Greek Americans, Polish Americans, Hungarian Americans, Russian Americans, Turkish Americans, Chinese Americans, Indian Americans, Korean Americans, Filipino Americans, Japanese Americans, Taiwanese Americans, Armenian Americans, Scandinavian Americans, Dutch Americans, Scottish Americans and many others from every corner of Earth.
The museum will tell about all of the groups who became Americans, who they were, where they came from, when they came, why they left their homeland, how they got here, where they settled, who was already here, what they encountered, where they moved after they arrived, how they became Americans and how they transformed our nation.
“Right now,” Eskenazi said, “none of the ethnic and minority groups who are here have the full stories about how they became Americans told in a national museum in Washington.”
The museum’s story would be told in four chapters: First Peoples Come (prehistoric period – 1607); The Nation Takes Form (1607 – 1820); The Great In-Gathering (1820 – 1924); And Still They Come (1924 – present).
One of the sites in Washington being considered for the museum is the Banneker Overlook at the end of L’Enfant Plaza. It is a five acre National Park Service plot that is on the agency’s books as a site for a future national museum.
The District government is seeking a major cultural attraction for that site to help transition visitors from the National Mall to the Southwest Waterfront development now underway along Maine Avenue. The nearby L’Enfant Metro subway station is the only one in the Washington system that services four train lines.
The museum has the support of DestinationDC which represents the Washington area tourist industry, the second largest industry in the area after government. The museum has the potential to attract hundreds of thousands of new visitors to the area every year.