The early history of El Museo del Barrio is complex, intertwined with popular struggles in New York City over access to, and control of, educational and cultural resources. Part and parcel of the national Civil Rights movement, public demonstrations, strikes, boycotts, and sit-ins were held in New York City between 1966 and 1969. African American and Puerto Rican parents, teachers and community activists in Central and East Harlem demanded that their children— who, by 1967, composed the majority of the public school population—receive an education that acknowledged and addressed their diverse cultural heritages. In 1969, these community-based groups attained their goal of decentralizing the Board of Education. They began to participate in structuring school curriculum, and directed financial resources towards ethnic-specific didactic programs that enriched their children’s education. East Harlem’s Puerto Rican communities’ energy and dedication to social justice prepared the way for the founding of El Museo del Barrio.
Following is an institutional timeline and exhibition chronology. Published here for the first time, this research was undertaken with the purpose of establishing a more complete exhibition history, and it is incorporated within the broader trajectory of institutional milestones.
This timeline and exhibition chronology is in process and will be subject to additions and corrections as more information comes to light. All artists’ names have been input directly from brochures, catalogues, or other existing archival documentation. We apologize for any oversights, misspellings, or inconsistencies. A careful reader will note names that shift between the Spanish and the Anglicized versions. Names have been kept, for the most part, as in the original documents. However, these variations, in themselves, reveal much about identity and cultural awareness during these decades.
We are grateful for any documentation that can be brought to our attention by the public at large. This timeline focuses on the defining institutional landmarks, as well as the major visual arts exhibitions. There are numerous events that remain to be documented and included, such as public pirogramming: lectures, symposia, festivals, theatre, music, film and video, readings, dance, and artist’s performances, as well as educational outreach and collaborations. While there is much more research to be done, we believe that putting forth this timeline contributes to the scholarship on Puerto Rican, Latino, Caribbean, and Latin American art and culture.