UPDATE 1/20/2018: Smithsonian officials announced Saturday afternoon that the museums will "follow normal operations and remain open" to visitors through Monday, January 22, adding one more day before shuttering the museums and the National Zoo due to the government shutdown.
The Smithsonian announced that it has "funds available to keep the museums open on Monday. We will update this announcement as needed."
As a divided Senate weighs a stopgap federal budget today, the possibility of government shutdown seems very real. Though the House managed to clear the plan yesterday, the supermajority Senate requirement may prove insurmountable. Senators on both sides of the aisle have their reasons for torpedoing the budget: many Democrats are protesting in light of the uncertain fates of DACA immigrants, and several Republicans dislike a multibillion-dollar children’s education allotment added as a concession to the left.
This precarious state of affairs leaves the near-term operations of the federally funded Smithsonian museums up in the air. The only thing that is sure is that the 19 museums and National Zoo located in the Washington, D.C. area and in New York City will remain open at least through Monday, January 22, so there’s no need to cancel flights to the East Coast if you were planning on Saturday, Sunday or Monday visits.
Should the Smithsonian Institution close next week, officials have announced that "National Zoo live-animal cameras, including the panda cam, will not be broadcasting. All the animals will continue to be fed and cared for at the National Zoo. A shutdown will not affect the Zoo’s commitment to the safety of staff and the standard excellence in animal care. This is the same procedure followed during the government shutdown in October 2013."
A National Air and Space Museum patron named Nick, in Washington with his wife and daughter to visit the former’s siblings, was glad to learn that the museums were maintaining their normal schedule through the weekend. “If it shuts down,” he’d told me at first, “all the things that we told our daughter we were going to do we won’t be able to do.” Happily, this is not the case. Though clearly frustrated with Congress, Nick is optimistic that “they’re going to work it out at some point in the next few days if they don’t do it today.”
Another patron at the museum, an Orthodox Christian priest named Father David, had brought his homeschooled son from Yonkers, New York to participate in the March for Life and see the Smithsonian museums firsthand. David feels grateful that they will be able to see what they came to see in D.C. “I’m glad we happened to be here now,” he tells me.
As for the debate on Capitol Hill, Father David would like to see compromise. “I hope they can avoid the shutdown, obviously, because I would like for government employees to continue to draw a paycheck and the government to continue to function,” he tells me. “I’m praying that we can stabilize it.”