Thursday, September 4, 2003

The National Aquarium in Baltimore said yesterday that it will operate the National Aquarium of Washington, D.C., providing new resources in its educational programming, animal care, and exhibit design and development.

“By partnering with one of the nation’s leading aquariums, we are ensuring that future generations in the nation’s capital will have access to world-class programs and exhibits that promote stewardship of aquatic life,” Nina Selin, chairwoman of the National Aquarium Society, said in a statement.

The National Aquarium in Baltimore has been working with the D.C. facility, the longest continuously operating aquarium in the country, for years. It has provided support and consulting efforts, including sharing aquarium-bred animals and advise on veterinary care and general operations.

The partnership fits in with the Baltimore aquarium’s strategic plan of making the public more aware of its programs, said Joseph Geraci, director of its biological programs.

“This will expand an audience for us right into D.C.,” he said.

The aquariums will remain separate and will not combine their boards of directors.

The 72-year-old aquarium in Washington, which has about 80 exhibits, is tucked away in the basement of the Department of Commerce building on 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW.

Last year, 196,000 people visited, down from 225,000 to 250,000 in the years before the September 11 attacks, said Bill Simpkins, the aquarium’s director. The Baltimore facility has about eight times that attendance, with an estimated 1.6 million visitors each year.

Like its Baltimore counterpart, the National Aquarium is not funded by the government and relies on private funds, public support and admission sales to operate. The aquarium lost government funding in 1982 and had planned to close. But the National Aquarium Society was founded in an effort to save the facility, and had operated it until now.

The Baltimore aquarium, which opened in 1981, is undergoing an expansion that will include an Australian exhibit and a waterfront park slated to open in spring 2005.

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