- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Four Smithsonian museums — the Renwick Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the American Art Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture — are to reopen Friday to in-person visitors with certain coronavirus restrictions in place.

The four museums will be open only Wednesday through Sunday, rather than seven days a week to allow additional cleaning. The Renwick Gallery will be open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and the National Museum of African American History and Culture will be open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Portrait Gallery and the American Art Museum will be open 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“All of our museums are different and have different needs for reopening safely. The decision to reopen these particular museums next was made in consultation with museum leadership, based on logistics, facilities and staffing considerations, as well as the timely implementation of all necessary safety measures to ensure a safe experience for visitors and staff,” said Alise Fisher, a spokeswoman for the Smithsonian Institution.

As safety precautions, museums are requiring visitors age 6 and older to wear face masks, and are recommending coverings for younger children. Face shields are not allowed as an alternative for masks, but they can be worn over face coverings or masks.

Smithsonian spokeswoman Concetta Duncan said visitors will have to bring their own masks and will have access to hand sanitizing stations throughout the buildings.

Museum security staff will monitor and enforce social distancing and mask measures. Visitors who don’t follow these guidelines will be given a verbal warning.

Timed-entry tickets are required for all visitors to stagger arrivals and to allow for more social distancing in galleries. Visitors are limited to six passes and can reserve timed-entry tickets online or by calling 1-800-514-3849, ext. 1. Passes cannot be sold or transferred.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture said it is limiting the number of passes to 250 per day during the first two weeks of reopening before increasing to 1,100 per day during the third week. The museum will not accommodate any walk-up visitors.

Museum cafes and retail shops, including the Sweet Home Café at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Courtyard Café in the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard of the American Art Museum and the Portrait Gallery, will remain closed. Bathrooms will be open to visitors but will have a maximum capacity.

All on-site public tours and events are temporarily suspended. Some galleries, exhibits, theaters and interactive displays may be closed or operating at a reduced capacity.

The museums also will have signs posted to encourage maintaining social distance. All visitors and staff who are sick or feeling unwell are asked to stay home.

Although the pandemic temporarily shuttered Smithsonian’s museums, curators kept busy, adding new shows at the four museums. The recently installed exhibition at the Portrait Gallery called “Her Story: A Century of Women Writers” features portraits of 24 of America’s most influential writers, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

“We are really excited to welcome our many friends back to the Portrait Gallery — and make many more. As a part of your Smithsonian, we are meant to be enjoyed by everyone and we have so many new exhibitions and works of art we want to share,” said Kim Sajet, director of the Portrait Gallery. “Of course, we’ll keep posting tons of fantastic online content, so whether on-site or online, we hope you stay in touch.”

All Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo shut down on March 14 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On July 24, the Smithsonian reopened the National Zoo and the Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. The zoo has had more than 170,000 visitors, and the Udvar-Hazy Center has had more than 45,000 visitors since reopening, according to Ms. Fisher.

On Aug. 17, the institution reopened its gardens.

All other museums remain temporarily closed to the public. The Smithsonian estimates it will have lost $49 million in retail revenue from March 14 through Oct. 1 due to closures.

• Shen Wu Tan can be reached at stan@washingtontimes.com.

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