Updated Dec. 2016: The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is working on a multiyear collecting initiative, “Latinos and Baseball: In the Barrios and the Big Leagues,” to identify artifacts that reflect the social and cultural influence of the game on Latino communities. The first Latinos and Baseball partner event of 2017 will be hosted by the Ybor City Museum Society on Feb. 18. The Latinos and Baseball Tampa Bay collecting event will include a panel of coaches and local players who have previously played in Cuba. The event will also host a series of guest lecturers and attendees will be able to view a baseball documentary.
The museum will announce additional events for 2017 in the new year. The events are designed to generate interest in the initiative, build on community relationships, record oral histories and identify objects for possible acquisition by local historical associations as well as for the National Museum of American History collections.
The museum is seeking to document stories from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico and plans to continue collecting objects such as baseball equipment, stadium signs and game memorabilia, such as handmade or mass-produced jerseys and tickets as well as food vendor signs, home movies and period photographs. Curators will select objects based on the stories they represent as well as insight into personal, community and national narratives involving the national pastime. The initiative’s goal is to work towards the development of a traveling exhibition by 2020.
“Baseball has played a major role in everyday American life since the 1800s, providing a means of celebrating both national and ethnic identities and building communities,” said John Gray, director of the museum. “Through the lens of baseball, the Smithsonian seeks to illuminate the rich history and culture of Latinos and their impact on American culture and society.”
The museum is working with 11 partner organizations as well as the Smithsonian Latino Center, Smithsonian Affiliations and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture to carry out the “Latinos and Baseball” initiative: California State University, San Bernardino; California State University, Channel Island; California State University, Los Angeles; The Institute of Texan Cultures at the University of Texas, San Antonio; the Kansas City Museum; LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes in Los Angeles; Los Magnificos Film in New York; La Casita Cultural Center at Syracuse University; the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; the Ybor City Museum Society; and the “Sugar Beet Fields to Field of Dreams, 1920s–1960s, Mexican/Spanish Contributions to America’s Favorite Pastime” exhibition, which was on display last fall at Adams State University.
The first event was held in February at California State University, San Bernardino’s John M. Pfau Library, home of the Latino Baseball History Project. LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes in Los Angeles hosted the second event July 17 and The Kansas City Museum featured special events on Aug.12 –13 at its museum and at Penn Valley Park in August. In September, La Casita Cultural Center at Syracuse University hosted a baseball program in conjunction with its annual signature exhibition program, “Balcón Criollo.” Adams State University in Alamosa, Colo. also hosted a Sept. 15 exhibit opening and presentation for “Sugar Beet Fields to Field of Dreams, 1920s–1960s, Mexican/Spanish Contributions to America’s Favorite Pastime” with curators Gabe and Jody Lopez. It was followed by a Sept. 29 panel discussion and collecting event at the University’s Nielson Library. The events were a part of the University’s Hispanic Heritage Month and Hispanic Serving Institution Week (Sept. 12-16) celebration.
The initiative is designed to build on a growing body of original research, oral histories and collections by and with Smithsonian partners to document the impact Latino communities have had on American history and culture through the sport. The museum also is gathering stories from the public about the role baseball has played in their lives and communities. Through the website, https://americanhistory.si.edu/latinos-and-baseball, individuals can record and share memories of playing or watching baseball and discuss how the sport brought together diverse members of their towns, neighborhoods, schools and places of worship.
Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic 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 https://americanhistory.si.edu. The museum is located on Constitution Avenue, between 12th and 14th streets N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.