Government Shutdown Closes Smithsonian Museums

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For the first time in U.S. history, a one day government-wide furlough was ordered by President Ronald Reagan, with 400,000 of 2.1 million federal employees furloughed. The Smithsonian sent home non-essential staff and closed the museums. Essential staff, such as guards, keepers at the National Zoo, and building engineers stayed on site. Employees were paid for the furlough day by the federal government.


  • Reagan, Ronald
  • Office of Protective Services
  • Guard Force
  • United States Congress
  • United States President (1981-1989 : Reagan)
  • National Zoological Park (U.S.)


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • "Federal Offices Shut Down As Workers Are Sent Home," The New York Times, Nov. 24, 1981, p. B 15.
  • "Who/What Was 'Essential'," The Washington Post, Nov. 28, 1981, p. A22.

Contact information

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


November 23, 1981


  • Closings
  • Zoo keepers
  • Museums


Washington (D.C.)

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