National Museum of American History Joins HistoryMiami to Collect Cuban Migration History

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and HistoryMiami are collaborating on a project to document the story of Cuban migration to South Florida and to collect artifacts related to the journey and experience of life in the United States.

The joint project, “Exiles in South Florida: Collecting Cuban Migration History,” will collect stories and objects that reflect this story with a focus on the 1960s Operation Pedro Pan, a program that brought over 14,000 unaccompanied children from Cuba and the Mariel Boatlift or “freedom flights” that occurred in the 1980s. The National Museum of American History plans to build a collection for exhibitions that recount Cuban migration stories, including how Cuban Americans have shaped a cultural and social identity in the United States.

HistoryMiami is a museum focused on the history of Southeast Florida and is a Smithsonian Affiliate.

“The journeys of many Cubans to Miami are extraordinary migration stories seldom told within a national context,” said Steve Velasquez, associate curator at the museum. “They provide an avenue to discuss Hispanic and Cuban culture and the migrant experience in the United States. This project allows the museum to work with Florida partners in documenting how this migration experience has shaped the individual, the community and the nation.”

The National Museum of American History and HistoryMiami are also working with the Guantánamo Public Memory Project, dedicated to building awareness of the history of the U.S. naval station at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. A goal of this partnership is to highlight the intersections between U.S. immigration policy and everyday immigrant life.

“HistoryMiami is proud to be partnering with the Smithsonian Institution to preserve the migration history of South Florida’s Cuban community,” said Ramiro Ortiz, president and CEO of HistoryMiami. “We are excited about the possibility of incorporating the collected stories and artifacts in future exhibitions and programming.”

The Florida partnerships will help inform Smithsonian scholarship and bring in objects and stories that the National Museum of American History can draw upon for a future exhibition on the 500-year journey of the peopling of the United States; the exhibition, is set to open in 2016.

In summer 2015, HistoryMiami will present “Operation Pedro Pan,” a major exhibition that will tell the story of the largest recorded child refugee exodus in the western hemisphere. The 3,000-square-foot exhibition will be displayed in collaboration with Operation Pedro Pan Group Inc., a non-profit organization founded in 1991 by the former children of Pedro Pan.

Through its collections, research and public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. The museum helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. For more information, visit The museum is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free.

Founded in 1940, HistoryMiami, a Smithsonian Affiliate, gathers, interprets and presents the history of Miami and the greater South Florida region as a crossroads of the Americas. The museum accomplishes this through collections, exhibitions and educational programs that offer the community and its visitors meaningful ways to connect with their rich past and ever-evolving future. To learn more, visit

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Melinda Machado
(202) 633-3129

Amelia Avalos     
(202) 633-3129