President Biden signs Queens lawmaker’s bill to establish first national Asian American and Pacific Islander museum into law

Biden signs Meng's bill to establish an Asian American and Pacific Islander museum
Congresswoman Grace Meng joins President Biden for the signing of her bill to establish the first national museum dedicated to preserving the history and culture of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at a ceremony held on Monday, June 13. (Photo courtesy of Meng’s office)

Congresswoman Grace Meng’s bill that seeks to create the first national museum dedicated to preserving the history and culture of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders was signed into law by President Biden on Monday, June 13. 

Meng’s bipartisan legislation unanimously passed the House in April and the Senate in May during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

During a ceremony held with Vice President Kamala Harris and several other lawmakers and organizations that supported the legislation, Meng thanked those who have helped to get her bill over the finish line. 

“I am ecstatic and overjoyed at this historic moment and honored and proud to have championed this crucial effort, especially after fighting for this legislation in Congress over the past seven years,” Meng said.  

The congresswoman also thanked and commended Biden for signing her bill into law and understanding the importance of establishing a national AAPI museum. 

“Since the beginning of his administration, President Biden has proven to be a true friend and ally of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. He has partnered with me to address the rise in anti-Asian hate and violence, listened to the concerns I have raised with him about issues impacting AAPIs and now he has joined me in taking the first step toward memorializing our history and culture in a national museum,” Meng said. 

Meng added, “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have shaped our nation since its founding. From the struggles we’ve endured to the accomplishments we’ve made, it’s time for more Americans, and our future generations, to know our story. And a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture would provide the physical space for people to learn how we have helped make America the country that it is today. It would help ensure that more Americans understand that Asian Pacific American history IS American history.” 

Meng’s bill will follow a similar path used to create the National Museum of African American History and Culture which opened in 2016, as well as the National Museum of the American Latino and National Women’s History Museum, both of which are in the process of being established.

Entitled the “Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture Act,” the legislation will create a commission of eight individuals with various expertise in museum planning or AAPI history and culture to examine the feasibility of establishing, maintaining, funding and operating such a facility in the nation’s capital, possibly as part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., which is the world’s largest museum and research complex. 

 Meng’s measure will require the commission to:

  • Report recommendations for a plan of action on the establishment and maintenance of a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture.
  • Develop a fundraising plan to support the establishment, operation and maintenance of the museum through public contributions.
  • Obtain an independent review of this fundraising plan, including an analysis of the resources necessary to fund the construction of the museum and its operations and maintenance without reliance on federal funds.
  • Report on the availability and cost of acquiring collections for the museum, identify potential locations for the facility in Washington, D.C., and determine its regional impact on other related museums.
  • Submit to Congress a legislative plan of action on whether to and how to establish and construct the museum.

The legislation will also direct the commission’s recommendations to address whether the museum should be part of the Smithsonian. The commission will have 18 months to complete the study and its members will be appointed by the House speaker, Senate majority leader, House minority leader and Senate minority leader.

 As part of championing the bill during the last several sessions of Congress, Meng has testified in support of her legislation before two committees, first in February 2020 before the House Administration Committee and the second time in December 2021 in front of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. 

Late last year, Meng called for the chair of the Natural Resources Committee to make her bill among the first measures for the panel to take up in 2022. Further, she discussed the legislation with the president and vice president Kamala Harris in March while meeting with them about the priorities of the AAPI community, and she spoke about the importance of it on the House floor when it was voted on in April.

Last week, Meng joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for a congressional signing ceremony where the bill was formally sent to Biden.

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