D.C. Museums Open During a Government Shutdown

These cultural sites are shutdown-proof.

The Washington, D.C., area is home to famous sites such as the Smithsonian Institution museums, monuments and national parks that run on federal funds. So a government shutdown can put the brakes on a visit to the nation’s capital. Luckily, the District is also home to many top cultural institutions that don’t depend on the federal government and remain unaffected during a shutdown. Here are a few top-notch museums with eye-opening works worth a look during a government shutdown—and any time of year.

American University Museum at the Katzen

Located on the campus of American University, this site holds a collection highlighting works by locals like Washington Color School artist Sam Gilliam and international stars. In 2018, the largest university-affiliated art museum in the region also inherited a vast trove of famed pieces from the now-closed Corcoran Gallery of Art, enhancing AU’s already impressive collection. Free. 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW, 202.885.1300

American University Museum at the Katzen

Art Museum of the Americas

This little-known gem is part of the Organization of American States, an international diplomatic body whose goal is “to promote democracy, peace, justice and solidarity” among its 35 member states. And what better way to do just that than through art? More than 2,000 works compose the collection, illustrating the evolution of modern art in Latin America and the Caribbean, including works by early talents who have become the region’s most important artists. Free. 201 18th St. NW, 202.370.0147

Organization of American States HQ

The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum

Named after the first U.S. president, this educational site combines two archives housed under one roof: The Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection and the Textile Museum. The former holds artifacts documenting the founding of D.C. The latter displays fabrics from five continents and five millennia, with highlights including pre-Hispanic Peruvian woven materials and some of the best collections of Iban and ikat fabrics. Free. 701 21st St. NW, 202.994.5200

The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum

The Kreeger Museum

David and Carmen Kreeger’s former residence designed by Philip Johnson once served as a glamorous modern backdrop for musical concerts. Today, the architectural stunner now shines a spotlight on the Kreegers’ impressive art collection, which includes works by Pablo Picasso, Edvard Munch and Wassily Kandinsky, plus Washingtonians Gene Davis, William Christenberry and Betsy Stewart. $10. 2401 Foxhall Road NW, 202.337.3050

The Kreeger Museum

Museum of the Bible

This nearly 2-year-old site offers 430,000 square feet of space to explore one of the most ancient texts in the world through some of the most innovative high-tech tools, including digital guides and a 270-degree immersive theater. $24.99. 400 4th St. SW, 866.430.MOTB

Museum of the Bible

National Building Museum

It’s hard to believe that in the 1960s, the government considered demolishing this former headquarters of the U.S. Pension Bureau. Luckily for us, preservationists and commissioned architect Cloethiel Woodard Smith changed hearts and minds. Thanks to them, the 1880s building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a popular off-the-beaten-track museum for the building arts. Its glamorous Grand Hall adorned with Corinthian columns hosted the first presidential inaugural ball for Grover Cleveland in 1885—a tradition that continues today—while recent summers have seen the soaring space turned into immersive (and popular) site-specific installations. $10. 401 F St. NW, 202.272.2448

National Building Museum

National Geographic Museum

The famed society’s museum is just what you’d expect from the historic magazine. Rotating displays—many interactive—showcase the works of the society’s explorers, photographers and scientists. Past exhibitions have explored the Titanic’s link to a secret Cold War mission, Michael “Nick” Nichols’ stunningly intimate photos of wildlife and a 3-D immersion into Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Editor’s note: The museum is closed through Feb. 28 for installation of the “Queens of Egypt” exhibit, but the store remains open. $15. 1145 17th St. NW, 202.857.7700

National Geographic Museum

National Museum of Women in the Arts

This museum advocates for women artists and displays their work, offering a more complete view of the art world. More than 5,000 objects are preserved here, all by women from the 16th century to today, with recent exhibits highlighting artists like Jami Porter Lara, Chakaia Booker and Patricia Piccinini. $10. 1250 New York Ave. NW, 202.783.5000

National Museum of Women in the Arts

Newseum

Housed in a modern structure down the street from the U.S. Capitol Building, seven floors containing 15 galleries and 15 theaters document the role of the free press. Artifacts chart the history of the newspaper to today’s front pages and social media, with displays highlighting historic events (broadcast antennae from the top of the World Trade Center and sections from the Berlin Wall). The Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery displays every winner since 1942 while other areas cover current events in thought-provoking ways. $24.95. 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 202.292.6100

Newseum

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Architect James Ingo Freed’s stunning building serves as the country’s official living memorial to one of the most tragic events in history. The main exhibition is simply titled “The Holocaust” and recounts the history in chronological order through artifacts, film and photographs across three floors. The museum also reflects on current dangers with exhibitions that seek to educate and encourage all to take action to prevent genocides today. Free (but reserve free timed tickets online from March 1 to Aug. 31 to see the permanent exhibition; otherwise tickets are not required). 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place SW, 202.488.0406

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Anne Kim-Dannibale
About the author

Anne serves as the Washington, D.C.,&nb...