Metro Weekly

DC’s biggest and most popular museums start to reopen

National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Portrait Gallery, and Renwick Gallery are all reopening.

dc, museum, smithsonian, portrait gallery
Smithsonian: Renwick Gallery — Photo: Pixelme Studio

Several of the biggest and most popular museums in Washington will reopen over the coming week, including a handful of Smithsonian Institution facilities that have been closed since last fall.

This Friday, May 14, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery will welcome back visitors, albeit with limited hours and capacity, and extra safety precautions, including requiring visitors to obtain free, timed-entry passes in advance.

The day also sees the West Building of the National Gallery of Art reopening along with its outdoor Sculpture Garden (the East Building won’t reopen until June).

On Saturday, May 15, the National Archives Building will reopen its Rotunda for views of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, also with limited capacity and reserved timed-entry tickets required. And next week will be bookended by reopenings, with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Monday, May 17, and the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the National Zoo on Friday, May 21.

Additionally, on Friday, May 21, the D.C. government will officially remove its capacity restrictions at museums that have been in effect to varying degrees since the start of the pandemic, which should throw open the doors of area museums both wider and sooner.

Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that many of the area’s non-Smithsonian museums have already reopened, among them the National Building Museum, the Phillips Collection, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Planet Word, and the International Spy Museum.

The Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. has also reopened, although the main National Air and Space Museum on the Mall “remains closed until further notice.”

Also remaining closed, with no reopening announcement, are the National Museum of Natural History, the Hirshhorn Museum (except for its outdoor Sculpture Garden), the National Museum of African Art, and the Freer and Sackler galleries, and the Textile Museum. For updates, visit and

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