ICYMI: Smithsonian Closes in Response to COVID Spike

Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History and Culture Architectural Photrography

The Smithsonian Institution is reversing their late September move to reopen museums across the District.

It’s a reversal from their public health-informed phased reopening plan, which began in early June with the National Zoo and eventually included the indoor National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Museum of American History, National Museum of the American Indian, National Portrait Gallery, Renwick Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Those museums are now closed.

The Smithsonian outdoor gardens (1000 Jefferson Dr. SW) remain open with no timed entry passes required.

The institution issued a statement detailing the closure of all eight locations. While the statement said the closures were “temporary,” a reopening date has not yet been announced.

The Smithsonian expressed concern for the health and safety of visitors amid the recent uptick in cases across the nation and the District.

“The Institution’s top priority is to protect the health and safety of its visitors and staff,” the statement read. “We will use this time to reassess, monitor and explore additional risk-mitigation measures.”

In September, Public Affairs official Alise Fisher spoke about the decisions to reopen the Zoo and Udvar-Hazy center explaining the gradual and cautious approach the institution took in response to the pandemic.

“We’ve taken a deliberate, gradual approach to reopening the Smithsonian across the institution,” Fisher said. “We wanted to start very slowly and began with only (the zoo and Udvar-Hazy center) in part because these are locations that lend themselves really well to social distancing and some of these other safety procedures that we need to put in place to ensure a safe experience for our visitors and our staff.”

While the phased reopening was a success, as the eight museums across DC reopened earlier this fall they said the current spike in cases across the nation and the District is cause for concern, especially in indoor spaces.

The closures proceeded the announcement from Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) that various aspects of the Phase 2 reopening would be rolled back as of Nov. 25. A variety of new testing sites were opened, including one at Nationals Park, in hopes of mitigating the spread of the Coronavirus. Bowser still emphasized the importance of staying home and away from crowds.

“Getting tested doesn’t stop you from getting COVID,” Bowser said. “You still need to do everything you can do to avoid contact with the virus.”

Sarah Payne is a History and Neuroscience student at The University of Michigan interning with HillRag. She writes for and serves as an assistant news editor for Michigan’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily. You can reach her at sarahp@hillrag.com.