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Smithsonian Faces Likely Closure As Government Shutdown Continues


Residents and tourists here in Washington are enduring the partial government shutdown. If it's not resolved by January 1, the shutdown will force the Smithsonian Institution and the National Zoo - both huge tourist draws - to lock their doors. Alana Wise of member station WAMU reports.

ALANA WISE, BYLINE: Museumgoers taking advantage of the last few days before the Smithsonian's likely closure waded through rain yesterday to enjoy the cultural attractions. While the museums and National Zoo are an easy trip for many local residents, several people on Friday said they had planned their trips weeks, or even months, in advance, including Virginia resident Trish Martin.

TRISH MARTIN: We planned this back in September to do this with the kids over the Christmas break, share this experience at this museum that needs to be talked about. So, yeah.

WISE: Martin said she hoped to see an end to the shutdown.

MARTIN: I'm a little bit frustrated, but you just really hope that they can find a compromise and find out and make good choices that will be best for everybody, that - for helping the immigrants. And that seems to be some of the issues that are being discussed and how to help resolve those concerns as well.

WISE: While the Smithsonian does receive private funding, the institution's programs are primarily funded by government appropriations. Two-thirds of its employees are federal workers. That means that, should the government remain at an impasse, those employees will join several hundred thousand furloughed federal workers affected by the shutdown, according to Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas.

LINDA ST THOMAS: Well, our federal employees are no different than other federal employees. In other words, whatever the Office of Personnel Management guidelines are is what we follow, also.

WISE: Sixty-eight-year-old Barbara Boyd, who was at the museum with her daughter to celebrate their upcoming birthdays, blamed President Donald Trump.

BARBARA BOYD: They're always talking about the American people want this, the American people want that. We don't want what Donald Trump wants. We are American people, and we want our museums open. We want our public employees, our federal employees to get paid.

WISE: Boyd said she drove more than 1,600 miles to pick up her daughter and visit the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. She had been worried that the shutdown would close the museum before they got there. For NPR News, I'm Alana Wise in Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alana Wise
Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.