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Smithsonian and National Gallery held on as long as they could, but they're closed

| Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, 10:00 a.m.
The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
Smithsonian Institute
The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Funds that kept the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art in Washington open since the beginning of the government shutdown have run out.

That means that all 17 of the District’s Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo and the National Gallery and its popular skating rink in the sculpture gardens are now closed.

They join the museums and National Park Service-operated sites across the D.C. region that have been shuttered since Dec. 22.

What makes this especially confusing for visitors is that it’s not always clear how the shutdown affects operations of some attractions.

The National Archives closed when the shutdown began. But the Library of Congress, the U.S. Botanic Garden, and the Capitol Visitor Center and Capitol Building are operating as normal, because they are funded by the 2019 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill.

Ford’s Theatre — where President Abraham Lincoln was fatally shot — is open for performances, because it does not use federal funds for those, but the museum operated by the National Park Service is closed.

Nonfederal museums are vying for attention from tourists and furloughed locals. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Newseum, the National Geographic Museum, and the Museum of the Bible are open as usual. The Phillips Collection, the National Building Museum, President Lincoln’s Cottage, and the Woodrow Wilson House are all offering free admission to federal workers with government IDs.

Tourists are locked out of the Smithsonian, but renovation of galleries in the National Air and Space Museum, including the World War I and World War II exhibits, will continue, says Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas.

Art lovers who haven’t yet seen the National Gallery’s landmark Rachel Whiteread exhibition, scheduled to close Jan. 13, or the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum’s “Diane Arbus: A Box of Ten Photographs,” which ends Jan. 21, might be out of luck. The chance of an extension “has yet to be determined,” said National Gallery publicist Isabella Bulkeley.

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