As the US government reopens, so do major US museums

As the US government reopens, so do major US museums
Smithsonian Arts and Industry building. Courtesy Flickr Commons.

Just last week it seemed there was no end in sight for the government shutdown wreaking havoc on the US. On January 28th, the country’s government began operating in a normal capacity following President Trump’s January 25th announcement. The announcement disclosed that a compromise was reached, albeit temporary, concerning the national budget even without funding for the US/Mexico border wall. Later on the 25th, the Smithsonian announced its doors would reopen today after 27 days of forced closure and the Renwick Gallery will follow on February 2nd.

Like many other government employees, Smithsonian workers were furloughed or worked without pay during the near-month-long shutdown. In total, 19 Smithsonian locations were among the many museums and historic sites that closed. The shutdown meant the institution lost money (approximately $1 million per week according to David J. Skorton, Smithsonian secretary) and temporary exhibitions have been cancelled and other shows will face delay. ‘Each day of the shutdown has palpable effects on this proud and venerable cultural institution, the people we serve and the members of the Smithsonian family,’ Skorton told CNN and the effects of the shutdown will be felt for months to come. Skorton added: ‘The research of curators and others in our museums is halted. Numerous expeditions and field campaigns related to biodiversity, human origins, and healthy forests and waterways have been canceled.’

What’s more is that the government could face another shutdown if a concrete agreement isn’t reached. The compromise that Trump announced last week only allows the government to operate through February 15th. If the stalemate between political parties within Congress is not broken by then, the government may be forced to shut down, again, and organizations may face a similar fate.

After the government shut down in late December 2018, the Smithsonian managed to keep its organization open for 11 days on funds left over from the previous year before having to close its doors to the public. It has yet to be said how the exhibitions and events interrupted by the shutdown will be handled when the museums reopen. A number of exhibitions are set to begin in the coming months but they could face delay after nearly a month without preparations. Moreover, a number of exhibitions have sat unseen during the shutdown and some have wrapped up while museums were unable to operate normally. Among these are ‘Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Pulse’, which runs through April 28th at the Hirshhorn and the Renwick’s ‘Disrupting Draft: Renwick Invitational 2018’, which runs through May.

The National Gallery of Art in DC, which is not a Smithsonian Institute but government funded organization, plans to reopen as well today as well. The NGA closed just a day after Smithsonian museums did and during the shutdown, an exhibition focusing on Rachel Whiteread finished on January 13th without anyone to see the end of its run. A massive Tintoretto show expected to open in March may well be delayed due to the shutdown as well.