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Federal museums and Presidential libraries scale down after government shutdown

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The National Zoo is not the only famous cultural institution impacted by the shutdown of many government services begun today. The National Gallery of Art and Smithsonian Museums are also closed to the public indefinitely. The Smithsonian Channel, a joint venture of Showtime Networks and the Smithsonian Institute, will continue to broadcast and may also provide a model for moving the arts beyond everyday political differences.

While the web site of the National Gallery of Art already displays a notice that the Gallery is closed on its home page, the same page also reports that the Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes special exhibition is open through October 6; presumably, the skeleton staff is not enough for a thorough overhaul of the website to reflect the shutdown influenced changes.

The National Archives has also suspended its direct operations. The Nixon Museum and Library in Yorba Linda, part of the National Archives, has shut down completely. The Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, which has significant private funding, will be able to keep the Air Force One Pavilion, Reagan's Country Cafe, the Museum Store and President Reagan's Memorial Site open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There will be limited access to the local repository of the National Archives in Riverside County.

The federal Institute of Museum and Library Services is also closed. The Smithsonian Museums are closed to the public, but staff assigned to protect the collections are exempt from furloughs and will continue to be paid. The counterexample of the public-private joint venture, the Smithsonian Channel, being able to continue operations with funding from cable television network operators should help the arts community to plan for the future. This model appears to offer much more stable sources of funding than government allocations. Another ray of hope is coming from the Kennedy Center, which is organized as a trust. While it secures many benefits as a federal government institution, it is not dependent upon government funding for most of its operations.