Looming government shutdown could close Washington’s museums
If Congress does not reach an agreement on next year’s budget, staff including curators, administrators and conservators at federal institutions would be affected
By Julia Halperin and Ermanno Rivetti. Web only
Published online: 26 September 2013
Museums along the National Mall in Washington, DC, including the Hirshhorn, the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Gallery of Art, will close temporarily if the looming national government shutdown goes ahead on 1 October.
Congress has just days left to authorise spending for the next fiscal year, but a partisan battle over the funding of President Obama’s health care plan has stalled the budget bill’s passage. If the government fails to reach an agreement by next week’s deadline, many federal services will be suspended and nonessential government employees will be sent home immediately.
The majority of the 6,300-person staff of the Smithsonian Institution would be affected by a shutdown, including curators, administrators and conservators, according to a spokeswoman. Only a small number of facilities staff—such as security guards and essential employees of the National Zoo, like vets—would remain at work.
Congress, not Smithsonian administrators, will determine whether non-essential employees are paid during the government closure, the spokeswoman says. Neither the museums nor the zoo would be open to the public until a new spending programme is approved.
In the event of a shutdown, the Smithsonian’s website would immediately adopt a banner to inform the public, particularly tourists who may not be following the news closely. (The Smithsonian has received 23.7 million visitors to date this year, according to its website.) Non-federal museums such as the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Phillips Collection would remain open.
Federal budget negotiations are often resolved in the eleventh hour: in 2010, the government reached an agreement on spending less than an hour before its midnight deadline. But the US government has shut down before. The most recent shutdown, between December 1995 and January 1996, lasted 21 days. During that time, all museums along the National Mall were closed, according to the Washington City Paper.
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