National Museums Face Cuts from Sequester


As the clock ticks down to the midnight deadline for Congress to avert across-the-board budget cuts related to the so-called sequester, national museums and cultural institutions are preparing for five percent cuts that they expect will be imposed on their budgets.

“We will absorb our five percent cut, which represents $40 million [of an $811.5 million federal appropriation], through a hiring freeze, postponing maintenance and repairs, and cutting back on staff training,” Linda St. Thomas, chief spokesperson at Washington, D.C.’s Smithsonian Institution, told A.i.A. by phone today.

“The cut will make a big difference,” she added. “For example, research requires travel, and our scientists travel all over the world.”

St. Thomas stressed that the museum hopes to spare the visiting public from the cuts’ impact, however.

“Our museums will remain open as normal, seven days a week. We’re coming up on tourist season. People visit from all over the world, some of them only once in a lifetime, so we want them to have a good experience.”

Other museums do not expect to be able to avoid closures. The National Gallery of Art, also in D.C., is planning to begin to close the museum to the public some days, spokeswoman Deborah Ziska told the Washington Post. Staff furloughs may cause closures on up to seven Mondays this year starting in June.

The National Endowment for the Arts is scheduled to take a $7.3 million reduction from a current overall budget of $147 million, said an NEA spokeswoman, also to the Post. The cuts will be prorated equally among grant budget and administrative budget.