The Washington Post

Government shutdown would be bad for Smithsonian

Do you have family or friends coming to Washington this weekend? With a shutdown looming, they may need to postpone. (Sadly, The Federal Eye’s sister already did.)


(RELATED: Watch the video above, by The Post’s Tucker Walsh, about how the shutdown could impact D.C. tourists.)

The threat of a government shutdown wouldn’t be good politically for President Obama or lawmakers or for federal workers who would feel a financial pinch. But it would be really bad for the Smithsonian Institution, which is just hitting its peak visitor season as families and school groups travel to Washington to soak up the history and enjoy the free museums.

If budget talks break down Friday evening and a government shutdown starts Saturday morning, about 500,000 visitors could be turned away this weekend alone from the National Zoo and the major Smithsonian museums on the Mall, according to Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas.

Depending how long the shutdown runs, she warned the museums could lose millions of visitors who would have perused the galleries and exhibits, purchased meals at the cafeterias and stocked up on souvenirs from the gift shops.

Museums have already sold 23,000 advance tickets for lunches and IMAX theater shows for this month — and thousands more show up the day of to eat and watch movies.

Sure, tourists could still pop in to the Newseum, Corcoran Art Gallery, Spy Museum (where you have to pay admission) or at least walk by the monuments (they might not be entirely accessible), but St. Thomas said tourists are also coming to Washington “to see the Hope diamond, Spirit of St Louis, some nice dinosaur bones, the ruby slippers and other icons” that you can only see at a Smithsonian museum.

And don’t worry guards would keep watch over the exhibits and the zoo animals would still be fed by a skeleton staff assigned to prepare and serve meals to the pandas, gorillas and other creatures. But will those animals get to entertain visitors? Not if there’s a shutdown.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

A few shutdown-related items worth your time today:

Read the dirty details of how a shutdown would impact the pay and benefits of federal employees.

• Are you a nonessential federal worker looking for something to do if you’re furloughed? Here are some possible D.C.-area daytime diversions.

• And if you think the 2011 budget cycle is bad, just wait 2012: Congressional Republicans are targeting federal pay and benefits for big cuts in the next fiscal year.

FY-Eye: If you missed it, watch the memorable memorial service for the late David Broder.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.


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