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A Lapse in Art: The Government Shutdown

Closing Up Shop and Shutting Down the Museums?

by: Zoe V. Speas

It’s finally here. The long-awaited school trip of an eighth grade class from Small Town, USA to Washington D.C. The itinerary has been set, tickets purchased, museums targeted as essential tourism destinations.

After many hours and countless dollars spent in tolls, fuel, and hotel reservations, they’ve arrived inside the city limits of our nation’s capital, which teems with experiences that will last any young student and their chaperones for a lifetime.

And then it hits - the shutdown.


Imagine the young minds and future leaders of our country as they tumble out of cramped seats on overcrowded buses. Imagine as they arrive upon the steps of the National Museum of American History or the United States Holocaust Museum or ANY BRANCH OF THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION to discover:

This Museum has been closed due to the shutdown of the Federal Government. It will reopen when the Federal Government resumes operations.

This is where it hits home. The cultivation of knowledge and historical significance effectively impeded by the inability of our leaders in Washington, D.C. to come to an agreement about the appropriations of funds?

On the United States Government homepage, with its oddly disconcerting slogan - “Government Made Easy” - a list of the effects of the government shutdown may be found for information on what exactly the shutdown means to us.

There’s a long bulleted list of the institutions whose operations have been suspended, followed by a shorter list of five vital organizations of the government that proceed uninhibited by the shutdown. See below.image

This is by no means to diminish from these aspects of our government as any less significant than we hold them to be. They continue to operate because we, on an individual level, would be virtually unable to function without them. 

That being said, look at the museum webpages for our invaluable government-funded programs in Washington, D.C.

The Museum of American History.


The United States Holocaust Museum.


The National Park Service.


The American Art Museum.


All closed.

Fun activity?

Click on the museums found on the Government-sponsored museum homepage and explore the various manners - and various level of subtlety - with which each website has used to announce the suspension of their activities. 


When her home catches fire, a mother looks immediately towards her child out of an instinct to save and protect. The fire alarm goes off in our place of work or in our homes, and we reach out to grab the items we cannot live without. It’s human nature.

Yesterday, the fire that threatened us to make the toughest choices as citizens of our country closed the doors to museums, barricaded memorials, and left the trash to sit uncollected in the National Mall as a result of the first government shut-down in 17 years.

At the end of the day, we let art and history burn for the sake of the greater good. 

We’ll pick up the pieces and reopen the doors when the fire goes out. We’ll be grateful for the soldiers who continued to defend our freedom, for the prison guards and air traffic controllers who kept us safe, and to the government workers who delivered our paychecks.

But are we brave enough to look a little deeper and ask the uncomfortable questions? Can we live with the implications of our choices?

Examine what this says about our country. Our government. Our culture and our people. What does it say about you?

Filed under angel orensanz foundation angel orensanz museum museum government shutdown America art culture washington dc

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