Smithsonian limits gallery closures to 3 museums

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Entertainment,Travel

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Smithsonian Institution will begin closing some galleries Wednesday due to budget cuts from Congress but none of the major exhibitions will be affected.

Smithsonian officials plan to close sections of three buildings between from May 1 until the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30. The museum complex must reduce its budget by $42 million as part of Congress' across-the-board budget cuts.

Spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas said the Smithsonian will close a small exhibit space in the National Museum of African Art, some sections of the Hirshhorn Museum displaying its collection and the Commons area of the Smithsonian Castle, which shows objects from every Smithsonian museum.

"I cannot imagine it will affect anyone's (travel) plans," she said.

Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough announced the closure plan following a meeting with the Smithsonian Board of Regents on Monday. The Smithsonian also has imposed a hiring freeze for its federal budgets and is deferring building maintenance.

Clough told Congress this month that the budget cuts forced a reduction in the Smithsonian's security contract that would result in some gallery closures. Initially the Smithsonian considered temporary, rolling closures of galleries a day or week at a time. But museum officials instead settled on a few longer-term closures.

If Congress sustains the government-wide budget cuts beyond September, Clough said the Smithsonian could be facing cuts of $65 million for next year and would have to consider more drastic measures.

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Brett Zongker can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DCArtBeat

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