Smithsonian museums, zoo among next shutdown casualties

WASHINGTON — While the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo will be open through New Year’s Day, things will change on Jan. 2 when those agencies also run out of money. Then, their doors will also close to tourists, locals and students on field trips.

The closures will be part of the partial government shutdown that’s already impacting the region.

The National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Museum of Natural History, and several galleries are among those that will close.

The exception will be the National Gallery of Art, which will close on Jan. 3 only because it won’t be open on New Year’s Day like the other attractions.

“It’s disheartening and sad for anybody to come down here and not be able to go to the museums,” said Stephen Dieter of Philadelphia, who was in town visiting. “Once again the average citizen is getting the short end of the stick.”

When the museums close, they will be among the most visible and controversial aspects of the shutdown for a lot of people who do not work for the government.

Dieter says it’s a political “football being kicked around” by lawmakers who know the closures will upset people who have already booked their trips to D.C. and planned to visit some of the Smithsonian institutions.

He said it’s another example of congressional leaders being unwilling or unable to work together to get things done.

Online, Twitter users reacted to the Smithsonian’s warning about the impending closures with more animated disgust.

Allison Bailey replied to the Smithsonian’s account saying, “We must do better. We deserve better as a country.”

A user who goes by @avamj1023 suggested members of Congress as well as the president should see their paychecks frozen during the shutdown.

Another user who posts as Hacon Magnus suggested the museums could just keep the doors unlocked. Most of those who responded online blamed the president.

Since the partial shutdown went into effect just before Christmas, the museums and the zoo have managed to stay open by using funding that hadn’t been spent yet. But with that money drying up in the coming days, it’ll take the passage of a new spending bill to keep the museums open the rest of January.

For the National Zoo, even though the gates won’t open Jan. 2, zookeepers will still report to work every day to feed and care for the animals. However they also won’t get paid for their work until a new funding agreement is reached.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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