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Smithsonian and National Gallery of Art Could Close This Week Because of Government Shutdown [UPDATED]

Many cultural institutions may be forced to close or scale back their operations if the government shutdown continues beyond Monday.

US Capitol building (photo by Diliff/Wikimedia Commons)

The federal government of the United States may be shut down, but the National Gallery of Art and the institutions run by the Smithsonian — 19 museums in New York and Washington, DC, as well as the National Zoo — have managed to remain open, for now.

According to a statement from the federally funded Smithsonian Institution, it has sufficiently leftover funds from past years to keep all the museums and the zoo open today. “We don’t know about tomorrow and beyond,” a Smithsonian spokesperson told Hyperallergic. Smithsonian Magazine noted that, in the event that the shutdown continues into Tuesday, the National Zoo’s live animal cameras will go offline, including the beloved Giant Panda Cam. Animals will still be fed and cared for, even if the zoo closes to the public.

The National Gallery of Art, meanwhile, will maintain its normal opening hours through Tuesday. However, per a statement on the museum’s website, “The Gallery’s status after Tuesday is yet to be determined.”

In New York, the state government stepped in to reopen the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island on Monday. Both are run by federal agencies and had been closed since Saturday. “We don’t want to lose the income,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said during a press conference at the Statue on Sunday, according to Reuters. “And symbolically, you can shut down the government, but you can’t shut down the Statue of Liberty.” According to PBS, New York State will pay $65,000 per day to the federal employees who run the two sites as long as the government shutdown continues.

In October of 2013, another political impasse caused the federal government to shut down. That closure, which lasted 16 days, forced many museums and other cultural institutions around the country to close.

We have also learned from organizations awaiting funds from various federal arts grants, including from the National Endowment for the Arts, that they will not be announced or delivered until the funding impasse is resolved.

The Senate is reconvening at midday today to discuss a measure that would fund the government through February 8, though that measure still needs to be approved by both the Senate and the House. We will update this post as more information becomes available.

Update, 1/22/2018, 2:30 pm EST: The Senate voted to end a filibuster of a spending bill that would fund the government through February 8. The Senate is expected to vote on that bill Monday afternoon. If approved, it will then go to the House for a final vote.

Update, 1/22/2018, 6:30 pm EST: The House and Senate approved the measure to extend funding for the federal government by three weeks, paving the way for President Trump to sign it into law Monday night. After he does so, federal employees will be cleared to go back to work on Tuesday morning.

Update, 1/22/2018, 10 pm EST: President Trump signed into law a bill ending the government shutdown and funding the government for another 17, or through February 8.

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