Along with "nonessential' federal offices in Washington and around the country, a motley mix of art exhibitions, cultural events, historic archives and even the live "Panda Cam" would be among the budget casualties if the government shuts down.
Linda St. Thomas, chief spokeswoman for the Smithsonian Institution, put it bluntly, "It's very simple: If the government shuts down, none of the Smithsonian [museums] will be open to the public. ... Our doors simply won't open."
While national treasures like the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Air and Space Museum will keep their lights off and doors locked, maintenance and security staff will be on call to oversee the upkeep of the buildings during the shutdown.
The National Zoo announced that all its live zoo cams, including the one trained on the zoo's 5-week-old panda cub, will go dark. Although viewers won't be able to watch the pandas and other zoo animals online, National Zoo officials said that proper animal care will not be interrupted.
President Obama, in mid-afternoon remarks Monday to the White House press corps, offered his own gloss on what would shut down and what would stay open in the event that no spending bill is passed by midnight.
Social Security recipients, he noted, will still get their checks and Medicare patients will still be able to be seen by their doctors. Mail delivery will not be interrupted and personnel in the armed services, air traffic control, prisons and border patrols will remain at their posts.
But Mr. Obama said NASA will shut down "almost entirely" except for maintenance operations supporting the astronauts on the International Space Station. Federal buildings will close, many parks and monuments will be off-limits, and offices offering veterans support services will be empty.
"Hundreds of thousand of these dedicated servants who stay on the job will do so without pay," Mr. Obama said. "These Americans are our neighbors. Their kids go to our schools. They are the customers of every business in this country. They would be hurt greatly."
At a more micro level, special events and exhibitions planned for this month might be canceled if the shutdown persists.
On Tuesday, the National Portrait Gallery is scheduled to debut its newest photography exhibit, "Dancing the Dream." The exhibit, which features photos of prominent dance figures including Fred Astaire, George Balanchine and Mikhail Baryshnikov, is almost certain to be delayed.
The National Air and Space Museum's exhibit of Leonardo da Vinci's codex on the flight of birds may be cut short if the museum is closed.
Dinosaur lovers will have to wait a little longer to see the world's most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton if the shutdown continues through Oct. 16, when the Museum of Natural History is set to receive the rare fossil from a museum in Montana.
The "Wankel T. Rex" is on loan to the Smithsonian for 50 years, so eager visitors don't have to worry too much about missing out on an opportunity to see the Jurassic-era bones. If the shutdown were to continue for an extended period, the Capitol grounds would become an eyesore as the Architect of the Capitol will be cutting back heavily on maintenance and groundskeeping staff. Consequently all Capitol tours will be canceled and the Botanical Gardens will be closed.
Eva Malecki, spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol, said that in the case of a long-term shutdown, the maintenance and groundskeeping staff would rotate to share some of the responsibilities of upkeep.
The Library of Congress also will be closed and its online resources will be unavailable. While some important research will have to be put on hold, genealogists can rest at ease since many records will still be available at popular sites like Ancestry.com which stores more than 12 billion historical records.
The Library of Congress will also cancel all events that coincide with the shutdown. It is scheduled to host two cultural events in October for Hispanic Heritage Month, including a bilingual story time for toddlers and infants Oct. 11. If the shutdown is still in effect, the children will have to be content to have mom and dad read to them in one language.
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