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DC museums, National Zoo reduce operating hours due to staffing shortages

Three museums will stay open 5 days a week, while most, including the Zoo, will operate on a Thursday–Sunday schedule. Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is open every day.

WASHINGTON — After testing out a modified schedule for the first two weeks of January, the Smithsonian Institution has made the decision to further reduce the hours and days of operation of several of its museums until further notice. 

Starting Jan. 18, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, and the Smithsonian Institution Building (“The Castle”) will be open seven days a week. The National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of African American History and Culture will be open five days a week, while all other Smithsonian attractions, including the Zoo, will only be open Thursday to Sunday. 

The National Air and Space Museum in D.C., the National Postal Museum and the Anacostia Community Museum will remain closed until further notice. 

You can view all hours of admission for Smithsonian museums here

The new schedule comes on the heels of a temporary modified schedule from Jan 5 -17. 

"The Smithsonian recently announced reduced days and hours of operation for its Washington museums ...  in anticipation of unprecedented staff shortages due to COVID-19," the Smithsonian's leadership said via press release. "Smithsonian leadership evaluated operations, staffing needs and public visitation patterns during these two weeks. This newly modified schedule reflects the continued need to reduce operations due to ongoing staff shortages while accommodating the needs of the public by opening more museums on weekends."

According to Linda St. Thomas, a spokesperson for the Smithsonian Institute, 209 COVID-19 cases were reported among Smithsonian Institute staff members from Dec. 17 to Dec. 31.

"At no point does the Smithsonian operate museums with staffing levels that jeopardize the safety and security of its employees, visitors, or collections," St. Thomas told WUSA9 in an email in early January. "This is why we announced closures and reduced hours."

Reginald Booth, the president of the union representing several museum workers and security officials (AFGE Local 2463), alleged otherwise in an editorial published on the Federal News Network's website.

"Employees contacting the union described feeling as if the Smithsonian had sacrificed the health and safety of every employee scheduled to work by exposing them to the continuous line of visitors that come from all over the United States, to keep the museums open," Booth wrote.

Booth wrote that closing the doors of only some museums merely pushed larger crowds to those that remained open. 

"To date, the Smithsonian has had no confirmed case of a visitor-to-staff transmission," St. Thomas wrote in an email when asked about Booth's claims.

As has been the policy throughout the duration of the pandemic, all visitors ages two and older are required to wear face masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

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