Jorge Zamanillo, Executive Director and CEO of HistoryMuseum of Miamiwas appointed founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Latin American Museum. The new museum was established by Congress in December 2020. His appointment is effective May 2.
Zamanillo began working at the Miami Museum in 2000 as Curator of Object Collections and over time has curated several key exhibitions and programs, including the renovation of the museum’s permanent exhibit, “Tropical Dreams: A People’s History of Southern Florida” and curated “Operation Pedro Pan: The Cuban Child Exodus” in 2015. Prior to being promoted to Executive Director and CEO, he held several leadership positions at HistoryMiami, including Deputy Director, Vice President of Expansion Projects and Senior Curator.
“Jorge’s accomplishments at the HistoryMiami Museum underscore his commitment to exploring the full breadth of American history by bringing to life the complex and profound narratives of Latinos in the United States,” said Lonnie G. Bunch III, secretary of the Smithsonian. “His transformational leadership will be invaluable as we build this necessary museum from the ground up, helping us create a robust, dynamic and responsive museum that exemplifies what a 21st century cultural institution should be.”
“It is an honor to have been chosen to lead the development of this museum as founding director,” said Zamanillo. “The Latino experience is part of American history, and I want to ensure that our history will be preserved for future generations. This museum will celebrate the achievements and resilience of Latinos through powerful stories that capture the adversity encountered over the centuries by Latinos in the United States and their perseverance to move forward and create a legacy.
Renderings of the Molina Family Latino Gallery’s Latino Center exhibit, the first physical presence of the National Museum of the American Latino as the main building continues its development and eventual construction. Images courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution and the National Museum of the Latin American.
In legislation establishing the museum within the Smithsonian, Congress stated that the museum’s purposes are “to illuminate the history of the United States for the benefit of all by showcasing Latin American contributions to art, the history and culture of the nation from its earliest history.”
As executive director and CEO of HistoryMiami, Zamanillo manages the day-to-day operations of a museum with a budget of $6.2 million. He also led a $45 million expansion project (2015-2016) that added and renovated a new museum building, more than doubling the size of the museum, and created four additional exhibition galleries. In 2011, he was the project manager for the design and construction of the Miami Circle Archaeological Park in downtown Miami.
Zamanillo has helped transform the museum through exhibits and programs that reflect South Florida’s diverse communities. Under his leadership, the museum expanded the South Florida Folklife Center, dedicated to documenting, showcasing, and supporting the region’s traditional arts and culture, and added a permanent gallery dedicated to folk life. The museum created the Center for Photography to collect, save, and share photographic images that tell the stories of South Florida communities, and it expanded its Miami Stories initiative, which documents life in Miami through written stories, video submissions and audio recordings, which are retained. in the museum’s archives and shared online and through local media.
The museum, founded in 1940 as the Historical Association of Southern Florida and reorganized and renamed HistoryMiami Museum in 2010, now houses more than 40,000 artifacts and more than 2 million images. He is a member of Smithsonian Membershipsa network of over 200 museums and cultural organizations that share exhibits, loan objects and support educational programs.
Prior to joining HistoryMiami Museum, Zamanillo was an archaeologist with the nonprofit Cultural Resource Management Society Archaeological and Historical Conservancy Inc. In Miami. He currently is Treasurer and Board Member of the American Alliance of Museumsis the president of the Florida Museum Association and is a founding partner of Made by usan organization of museums and associations whose aim is to attract young generations who will write history from their own point of view.
Born in New York, Zamanillo grew up in Miami and earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Florida State University in Tallahassee and a master’s degree in museum studies from the University of Leicester in Leicester, England.
Since the legislation was passed, the Smithsonian has appointed a board of trustees and begun the site selection process, conducting a site survey to identify a location on or near the National Mall for the new museum. Eduardo Díaz, director of the Smithsonian’s Latino Center, served as acting director of the National Museum of the American Latino while leading the development of the Molina Family Latino Gallery, the museum’s first exhibit, slated to open later at the National Museum of American History. This year.