Description & History
During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, many Puerto Rican parents, educators, artists and activists in East Harlem felt that their cultural experience was not represented in New York?s major museums. In response to these concerns, Raphael Montanez Ortiz founded El Museo del Barrio in 1960.
During this time, major art institutions were encouraged to decentralize their collections and to represent a variety of non-European cultures.
Initially, El Museo del Barrio operated in a public school classroom and later relocated to brownstones in El Barrio, the Spanish-speaking neighborhood that extends from 96th Street to the Harlem River and from Fifth Avenue to the East River on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
In 1977, El Museo del Barrio became a member of the Cultural Institutions Group of the City of New York and found a permanent home in the spacious, neo-classical Heckscher Building at 1230 Fifth Avenue.
In 1978, El Museo del Barrio became a founding member of the Museum Mile Association, which consists of nine of the city's most distinguished cultural institutions such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Jewish Museum, and The Museum of the City of New York.
El Museo del Barrio has broadened its mission, collections, and programs in response to substantial growth in the Mexican, Central and South American, and Caribbean communities, both in New York and nationally. El Museo del Barrio?s permanent collection remains a treasured resource for developing exhibitions and education programs.
In recent years the public programs have addressed the educational needs of diverse populations?seniors, adults, adolescents, public school students, and even the youngest of visitors.
By reaching out to younger generations, the museum is seeking to build the next generation of museum-goers.
To celebrate our 40th anniversary, El Museo will re-open to the public on Saturday, October 17th 2009 with renovated facilities and the opening of the landmark exhibition, "Nexus New York: Latin/American Artists in the Modern Metropolis." The opening will also showcase the new Carmen Ana Unanue Galleries which features highlights of our permanent collection, "Voces y Visiones: Four Decades Through El Museo del Barrio?s Permanent Collection."