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House unanimously passes Asian American and Pacific Islander museum bill

"Creating a national museum would ensure there is a physical space to commemorate and share our story with future generations,” Rep. Grace Meng said in a statement.
Grace Meng
Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., speaks on Capitol Hill on May 27, 2020.Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP file

The House passed a bill Tuesday that would help establish the first national Asian American and Pacific Islander museum. 

The bipartisan legislation, which was co-sponsored by 120 Democrats and Republicans, passed unanimously by voice vote. The bill, reintroduced in May by Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., would create a commission to study the potential to establish and operate a museum dedicated to the community in Washington, D.C. 

“We have helped make the United States the greatest country in the world, but unfortunately many remain unaware of the crucial role we’ve played throughout our history,” Meng said of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in a statement. “It’s time for that to change, and creating a national museum would ensure there is a physical space to commemorate and share our story with future generations.”

According to the bill, the commission would be made up of eight people with backgrounds in museum planning or Asian Pacific American history and culture. They would help develop plans for fundraising, acquiring works and general implementation before submitting a legislative plan to Congress on whether to move forward with the institution. In addition, the bill mentions the potential for the facility to be included in the Smithsonian network of museums. 

Dozens of Asian American and Pacific Islander organizations, including the Asian American Federation and Asian Americans Advancing Justice — AAJC, had endorsed the legislation, and they applauded the bill’s passage as a step in recognizing and acknowledging the experiences of the community as an integral part of American history.

Varun Nikore, the executive director of the political and civic education organization AAPI Victory Alliance, said the legislation is particularly significant given the heightened racism the Asian community endured during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Our community is more than the tragic headlines that we have seen on a seemingly everyday basis over the last two years; we are a community full of rich history, traditions, and culture that deserves to be shared with the American people,” Nikore said in a statement. 

Meng has been advocating to establish a historical facility for several years. In December, she was joined by journalist Lisa Ling and Russell Jeung, a co-founder of the hate incident tracking organization Stop AAPI Hate, who testified before the House Natural Resources subcommittee on national parks, forests and public lands in support of the bill. 

“Museums are gateways for Americans and the world to see our country’s rich history, the challenges we overcame and our potential for greatness,” Meng said in her testimony. “Indeed, a physical space located in the nation’s capital is a powerful image that can inspire our youngest to pursue their dreams while educating visitors on our history. AAPI history is long and storied, and a national museum dedicated to it is overdue.”

The legislation is now headed to the Senate.