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Museums Close as US Government Shutdown Continues

Above: The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC.
Above: The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—While the US government has been partially shutdown for at least two weeks, as the lapse in government funding stretches on museums and cultural institutions have been forced to shutter. Among the closures are all nineteen Smithsonian museums in New York and Washington, DC, including the African American Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the National Air and Space Museum, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, and the National Zoo. The National Gallery of Art is open today until 5 PM, but will be closed starting tomorrow.

Federal agencies such as the National Archives, the US Commission of Fine Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities have been closed since the shutdown began on December 22, when President Trump refused to pass the federal budget. 

Trump is currently playing hardball with Congress in a dispute over $5 billion in funding for his proposed border wall between the US and Mexico. He is also blaming the Democrats for the shutdown. “The United States needs a physical barrier,” Trump said at a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Wednesday. “We are in a shutdown because Democrats refuse to fund border security.”

While tourists and locals may be frustrated by the dwindling number of cultural organizations that are able to remain open as politicians work toward a compromise, there still are a few institutions welcoming visitors. Among the venues still open are the Phillips Collection, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Library of Congress, and the US Botanic Garden as well as Ellis Island the Statue of Liberty in New York.  

According to the Washington Post, the Phillips Collection, the National Building Museum, President Lincoln’s Cottage, and the Woodrow Wilson House are offering free admission to federal workers with government IDs—a move which significantly increased visitors numbers during shutdowns in the past. A spokesperson for the National Gallery also told the Washington Post that it may consider extending major exhibitions which are due to close this month.

Now in its twelfth day, an end to the shutdown may be in sight. When Democrats take over the House on Thursday, they plan to vote on two bills to fund most of the government through September 30 and the Department of Homeland Security to February 8.

January 4, 2019