Economics Museums USA

Government shutdown cost Smithsonian nearly $3m

Institution estimates revenue lost during the two weeks its museums were forced to close

The Smithsonian’s $2.8m figure estimates lost revenue from cafeterias, gift shops and theatres at the institution’s 19 museums and the National Zoo

The 16-day federal government shutdown cost the Smithsonian an estimated $2.8m in lost sales and around 800,000 visitors, according to a statement from the institution. The bipartisan Senate agreement that ended the shutdown last week will provide back pay for all furloughed federal workers, including 3,512 Smithsonian employees.

It will take months for the Obama administration to calculate the impact of the shutdown on the entire US economy, but some economists have put the cost at over $3bn. The Smithsonian’s $2.8m figure estimates lost revenue from cafeterias, gift shops and theatres at the institution’s 19 museums and the National Zoo. (Admission fees were not a factor because entry to all Smithsonian museums is free.)

The week before the shutdown, the Smithsonian had 400,000 visitors. A spokeswoman estimates that the institution would have had more than double that figure during the two-week shutdown as it fell on a holiday weekend.

Exhibitions and loans were also cut short. Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex on the Flight of Birds, 1505-06, was on loan to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum for 40 days, half of which was lost due to the museum’s closure. Leonardo’s notebook, which includes 35,000 words and 500 sketches, has only been displayed outside of Italy a few times before. It returned to the Biblioteca Reale in Turin on 22 October.

Smithsonian exhibitions including “Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950” at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” at the Freer and Sackler Galleries opened last week as scheduled. Some employees, such as art handlers, were exempted from the furlough in order to receive and install loaned artwork that was delivered during the shutdown.

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