Security and Policies
The safety of the Smithsonian's visitors, volunteers, staff, and collections is of the highest importance. As the nation's most beloved collection of museums and galleries, we work hard every day to ensure the preservation of our country's treasures for the enjoyment of generations to come.
When you visit any of the Smithsonian's buildings you will discover that we have security measures to ensure your safety and the safety of the objects contained within. You'll be greeted upon entry by one of our security personnel who will conduct a thorough but speedy hand-check of all bags, briefcases, purses, and containers.
At some museums, such as the Air and Space, American History, Natural History, Postal, and American Indian Museums, visitors are required to walk through a metal detector. Those who are unable to go through the metal detector will be hand-screened with an electronic wand by security personnel. Bag checks will be conducted via an x-ray machine at the Air and Space Museum and Postal Museum. At all other museums, bags will be checked by hand.
Because of the security measures, the lines for entry to the museums may be long during peak seasons and holidays. We ask for your patience, cooperation, and assistance in keeping America's treasures safe.
Tips for Visiting the Smithsonian
We ask that when you visit the Smithsonian that you help us to ensure our collections remain safe. Please consider leaving any items that need to be checked
by security at home or at the hotel to speed entry.
- Bring only a small purse or "fanny-pack"-style bag
- Do not bring large daypacks, backpacks, or luggage into the museums, as they will be subject to a lengthy search in each building entered.
If possible, leave such items on the tour or school bus or in a hotel room.
- A reminder: bag lunches may not be eaten in the museums.
- Do not bring any sharp items into the museums such as knives (including pocket or "Swiss Army"-style knives), screwdrivers, scissors, etc.
- Other items not permitted include firearms, pepper spray, and Mace.
Lost and Found
The Lost and Found Office
matches lost property with daily lost property reports, and inspects lost
property for information that can facilitate return to its owner.
The Smithsonian permits still and video photography for noncommercial use only in its museums and exhibitions, unless otherwise posted. For safety reasons, tripods and monopods are not permitted at any time in any of the museums or gardens.
Working members of the media who need to use a tripod or monopod must obtain permission from the museum’s
Public Affairs Office and must be escorted by a museum staff member while in the building or garden.
Smoking is prohibited in all Smithsonian facilities.
Manual wheelchairs (a limited number) are available on a first-come, first-served
basis for use within each museum. The Udvar-Hazy Center can accommodate groups
Strollers are permitted in all museums; a limited number of strollers are
available for rent at the Zoo.
Pets (except service animals) are not permitted in the museums or the National Zoo.
Lockers are subject to CLOSE WITHOUT NOTICE. Security requires all bags be inspected before they can be placed in self-service checkrooms or lockers. Lockers are for the use of museum patrons only while they visit the Smithsonian.
Lockers are available as follows:
- African Art Museum – lockers with keys
- American History Museum – lockers with keys
(various sizes) on 1st floor (Constitution Ave)
- Freer Gallery and Sackler – lockers with code lock
- Hirshhorn Museum – lockers with code lock
- Natural History Museum – lockers with keys (Const. Ave. & Mall)
- Postal Museum – lockers with keys
- Reynolds Center for Art & Portraiture – lockers with digital locks (F & G Streets)
- Udvar-Hazy Center – lockers with keys
BAG LUNCHES, properly closed and secured, can be stored at these facilities.
*Most lockers are appropriate for coats, small bags, and carry-on luggage.
Alternate non-Smithsonian location:
Union Station luggage storage room
6 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily
charge determined by size of bag & length of time
open to public (not just rail passengers)
need photo ID
Visitation policies at the Smithsonian Institution are designed to protect visitors and staff as well as secure and preserve the collections, facilities, and historic buildings entrusted to the Smithsonian's care.
While on Smithsonian premises NO VISITOR SHALL:
In addition to the above, while on Zoo premises, NO VISITOR SHALL:
- Carry firearms, other dangerous or deadly weapons, or explosives, either openly or concealed on the premises. The prohibition on firearms applies to all visitors, including those with firearm permits, but not to active law enforcement personnel authorized to carry firearms. Note: Kirpans (ceremonial knives) are religious articles of faith often worn by Sikhs. These knives are permitted in the museums as long as the blades are 2.5 inches or less in length, consistent with federal law (18 USC 930);
- Display or carry placards, signs, or banners;
- Destroy, damage, or remove property;
- Climb upon any part of a building;
- Use loud, abusive, or otherwise improper language;
- Loiter, sleep, or participate in unwarranted assemblies;
- Create any hazard to persons or things;
- Perform obscene or indecent acts;
- Engage in disorderly conduct;
- Use, possess, or sell illegal drugs;
- Bring dogs or other animals, other than service animals;
- Take photographs for advertising or any other commercial purpose; or
- Solicit for commercial or charitable purposes or distribute advertisements, pamphlets, handbills, and flyers.
- Kill, injure, or disturb any exhibit or research animal by any means except to secure personal safety;
- Pet, attempt to pet, handle, move, or remove exhibit or research animals;
- Feed exhibit or research animals, except in strict accordance with authorized signs;
- Catch, attempt to catch, trap, remove, or kill any free roaming animals inhabiting the premises;
- Go over, under, between, or otherwise cross any guardrail, fence, moat, wall, or any other safety barrier;
- Seat, stand, or hold children over any safety barrier;
- Throw or toss rocks, or any other missiles into, from, or while on premises;
- Bring strollers, baby carriages, or other conveyances, except wheel chairs, into exhibit buildings and public restrooms;
- Engage in ball games, or any athletic activity, except in places as may be officially designated for such purposes;
- Smoke or carry lighted cigarettes, cigars, or pipes into exhibit buildings, or to have a fire of any kind on the premises; or
- Damage, deface, pick, or remove any herb, shrub, bush, tree, or turf, or portion thereof.
Visitors who violate these rules may be subject to fine or imprisonment. The complete Smithsonian buildings and grounds regulations can be found in Title 36 of Code of Federal Regulations, parts 504 and 520 (National Zoo).