Federal Government Shutdown Closes 20 Museums

  • Once the government shutdown ends, this surtout de table (detail) is on view in "Tablescapes: Designs for Dining," through April 14, 2019, at the Cooper Hewitt in New York.

    Once the government shutdown ends, this surtout de table (detail) is on view in "Tablescapes: Designs for Dining," through April 14, 2019, at the Cooper Hewitt in New York.

    Cooper Hewitt

  • The exhibition "Sean Scully: Landline" is at the Hirshhorn through Feb.  3, 2019.

    The exhibition "Sean Scully: Landline" is at the Hirshhorn through Feb. 3, 2019.

Due to the continuing U.S. federal government shutdown, Smithsonian museums and the National Gallery of Art have been closed since January 2 and 3, respectively. All 19 Smithsonian museums, including the National History Museum, the Hirshhorn and the National Portrait Gallery, as well as the Copper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York and two other venues outside of Washington, DC, remain off limits to visitors. Since Dec. 22, some 800,000 federal employees have either been forced to work without pay or had to take unpaid time-off due to the parital government shutdown over a border wall funding dispute.

The National Zoo is also not open, with no online peeks inside either. "The National Zoo live-animal cameras, including the panda cam, are not broadcasting. All the animals will continue to be fed and cared for at the National Zoo," the Smithsonian said in a statement.

“We can’t reopen until we have a federal budget, so it all depends on a call from the White House,” said Linda St Thomas, the chief spokesperson of the Smithsonian Institution. “When we get federal funding, we will reopen immediately.”

St. Thomas estimates that around one million visitors usually come through all the Smithsonian museums in January.

Museum events and programs have been postponed or cancelled during the long-term closure. A myriad of exhibitions, such as the popular Bill Traylor retrospective at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (through March 17, 2019) and Sean Scully: Landline (at the Hirshhorn through Feb. 3, 2019), will be unseen by the public until the White House resumes funding.

In addition to the museum closures, nine federal departments along with several smaller agencies have closed. National Parks have largely remained open without full staffing, unlike during previous government shutdowns, causing some states to pick up the costs and prompting a host of maintenance issues and unsafe conditions, according to The Mercury News.

The White House is demanding more than $5 billion for a U.S.-Mexico border wall which Congress has denied.

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