The Smithsonian Institution will be closing small exhibit area sections in the African Art Museum, the Smithsonian Castle and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden beginning Wednesday due to the across the board budget cuts known as sequestration.
The closures, announced by Secretary Wayne Clough after a Board of Regents meeting Monday, are part of $42 million in cuts that began March 1 and extend through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. They are part of a reduction in a security contract that supplements the Smithsonian security force and will affect “The Commons” on the first floor of the Castle which includes such items as a Panda video and a helmet worn by Gen. Charles Yeager. An education room adjacent to the “African Mosaic” permanent exhibit in the African Art Museum along with some sections of the third floor which houses some permanent collection items in the Hirshhorn.
Initial cuts to travel and building maintenance as well as a hiring freeze were announced when the sequester first took effect. Gallery closures on a “rolling basis” were announced earlier this month, but Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas said the three closures, which will remain in effect until the end of the fiscal year or until Congress enacts new legislation, are easier to understand and involve no major exhibition areas. We did “what we could do to adjust and what would affect the public the least,” St. Thomas says.
Planning for the next fiscal year, which could involve larger cuts, will begin in the summer if the sequester continues, Clough said.