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Here’s what you need to know about visiting museums in D.C. right now

The Smithsonian's National Postal Museum, closed for months because of staffing shortages, reopened to the public on March 11. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
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Washington’s museum scene continues to feel the effects of the pandemic. Some museums have dramatically scaled back hours, while others continue to require vaccination for entry. Meanwhile, some popular attractions are shuttered for renovations, or now require advance reservations. Remember: While D.C.'s mask mandate has been lifted, and the Smithsonian museums and National Gallery of Art ended their mandate for visitors and staff on March 11, some museums, including the Phillips Collection, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Children’s Museum, continue to require visitors to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

Here’s everything you need to know about visiting D.C. museums in 2022.

This story will be updated.

The Smithsonian has scaled back its hours.

Positive coronavirus tests have led to severe staff shortages at the Smithsonian since late 2021. In early January, the Smithsonian announced it was temporarily closing some museums and scaling back opening hours at others.

The last three museums reopened in early March: The Anacostia Community Museum reopened March 9, and the National Air and Space Museum and the National Postal Museum reopened March 11. The Air and Space Museum will close again on March 28 for previously scheduled renovations, which are expected to be completed in the fall. (On a non-coronavirus note, the Renwick Gallery closed March 7 to allow the installation of its next big exhibition, “This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World,” which opens on May 13.)

Of all the Smithsonian museums and facilities, only four are open daily: The National Museum of Natural History, the National Zoo, the Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center, in Chantilly, and the Smithsonian Institution Building, known as the Castle. The other big museums on the Mall — American History (open Friday through Tuesday) and African American History and Culture (open Wednesday through Sunday) — are open five days per week.

Most other facilities, including Air and Space, the Hirshhorn and the National Portrait Gallery, are now open Thursday through Sunday. The full schedule is available on si.edu/visit. Only the African American Museum and the Zoo require passes to enter.

Other museums and historic sites are closed, too.

The Smithsonian isn’t the only attraction where you might find locked doors this spring. The National Gallery of Art closed the East Building, home to its modern art collection, on Feb. 28 for restoration work on the skylight, as well as other renovations, and plans to reopen the building in June.

The U.S. Capitol Visitors Center and the U.S. Botanic Gardens have been closed since March 2020, because of the pandemic, though the Botanic Garden’s outdoor area is open.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts closed for extensive building renovations in August 2021, and is not expected to reopen until fall 2023. However, some of the museum’s treasures, including works by Lavinia Fontana, Amy Sherald and Frida Kahlo, are on display at the National Gallery of Art during the closure.

The Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, the historic home of the National Woman’s Party — had big plans for 2020, the centennial of women’s suffrage. However, the museum closed in March 2020, and has not reopened to the public. The National Park Service announced that the museum will be closed through early 2023 while the roof, windows and other portions of the building are renovated. It’s not the only Park Service site closed at the moment: at Cedar Hill, Frederick Douglass’s Anacostia home, the grounds are open but the house is closed.

The Folger Shakespeare Library is closed until 2023 to add a new entrance, exhibition spaces and research areas.

Some museums still ask for proof of vaccination.

Museums weren’t covered by D.C.'s proof-of-vaccination mandate, which ended Feb. 15, but the mayor’s order allows businesses and private buildings to set stricter entry requirements. The Phillips Collection and Kreeger Museum require proof of vaccination for visitors (5 and older for Phillips, 12 and older for Kreeger), though they accept negative same-day tests. Hillwood, Marjorie Merriweather Post’s Northwest D.C. estate, requires proof of vaccination for visitors 12 and older to enter the gardens as well as the mansion.

Some government-run buildings take reservations.

The Library of Congress is open Wednesday through Saturday, and free timed-admission tickets are required for entry. They are available up to 30 days in advance, and the reservation website shows how many slots are available on a particular day. While the National Archives is open daily and no longer requires visitors to request timed tickets, reservations are available for those who don’t want to wait in line outside. Admission is free, though there is a $1 fee for booking through recreation.gov.

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