Smithsonian Closes Due to Furlough and Snowstorm

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  • In December of 1995, a budget standoff between President William Clinton and the United States Congress led to a government wide shut-down from December 16, 1995 to January 5, 1996. Only emergency Smithsonian personnel were at work during the budget stand-off and federal employee furlough. Smithsonian museums were closed to the public until Saturday, January 6, when they reopened to sparse visitorship. On Sunday, January 7th, a major blizzard hit the Eastern seaboard, paralyzing the Washington, D.C., region with more than two feet of snow. The storm closed the federal government for three more days, and Smithsonian employees did not return to work until Thursday, January 11th. On Friday, another snowstorm closed government offices again. After four weeks of disruption, normal operations resumed on Monday, January 15, 1996.
  • Essential employees, including security officers and zoo keepers, remained on the job throughout the closures, despite concerns that they were not being paid (they were later paid for their time). The Visitor Information and Associates' Reception Center, staffed by trust fund employees, responded to a record number of calls as the public inquired as to whether the museums were open and when specific exhibits would open.


  • Clinton, Bill 1946-
  • Office of Protective Services
  • Visitor Information and Associates' Reception Center
  • Guard Force
  • United States Congress
  • National Zoological Park (U.S.)


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • General Notes
  • "Second Furlough, Then Big Snow," The Torch, No. 96-2, February 1996, pp. 1-2.
  • "Federal Government Starts Another Shutdown," by Robert D. Hershey, Jr., The New York Times, Dec. 16, 1995, p. 12
  • "Once-in-a-Lifetime Art Exhibit, Victim of Shutdown, Is Reprieved," by Irvin Molotsky, The New York Times, Dec. 27, 1995, A1 and A12.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


December 16, 1995 to January 12, 1996


  • Closings
  • Zoo keepers
  • Storms
  • Snow
  • Museums


Washington (D.C.)

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