Smithsonian Museums Open on Inauguration Day

January 10, 2017
News Release
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In celebration of the 2017 Presidential Inauguration, the Smithsonian museums will welcome visitors during normal hours on Inauguration Day, Friday, Jan. 20. All will be open except for the National Museum of the American Indian and the Renwick Gallery. There will be no guided tours or public programs in the museums on Inauguration Day.

The Smithsonian has participated in inaugurations since the 1800s—President Abraham Lincoln held his second inaugural ball in what is now the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery in March 1865, and President James Garfield’s ball was held in 1881 in the U.S. National Museum (now the Arts and Industries Building, which is closed for renovations).

A photo portrait of President-elect Donald J. Trump will go on display at the National Portrait Gallery Jan. 13 and remain on view through Feb. 26. The photograph, taken in 1989 by photographer Michael O’Brien, shows Trump tossing an apple in his right hand. It was added to the collection in 2011.

Admission to all Smithsonian museums in Washington is free. Regularly scheduled tours and public programs will be cancelled Inauguration Day because of the crowded conditions in the museums.

Note: The National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum will close at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 18.

Museum Hours and Logistics on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20

  • Standard museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • Opening early: Smithsonian Castle at 8:30 a.m.; National Museum of American History at 8:30 a.m. for the Jazz Café and restrooms near the Constitution Avenue entrance—exhibitions will open at 10 a.m.
  • The National Museum of African American History and Culture will be accessible for people who have their advance free passes for Jan. 20; there will be no same-day online passes
  • The National Museum of the American Indian and the Renwick Gallery will be closed because of their proximity to secure areas; the Freer Gallery of Art remains closed for renovations
  • The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. (their normal hours)
  • The National Zoo’s buildings will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the grounds open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (normal hours)
  • All visitors’ services, including restaurants, stores and IMAX theaters, will be open
  • Visitors cannot enter or exit through the museums’ Mall doors. To enter:
  • For the National Museum of American History and National Museum of Natural History, visitors can use the Constitution Avenue doors
  • For the National Air and Space Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Museum of African Art, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Castle, visitors can use the museums’ Independence Avenue entrances
  • For the National Museum of African American History and Culture, visitors can use the Constitution Avenue entrance
  • Normal security screening will take place at all museums
  • There is no parking available near the museums
  • Metro stations: Smithsonian, Federal Triangle and Archives stations will be closed on Inauguration Day; stations open near the museums are L’Enfant Plaza, Metro Center and Gallery Place

Live Broadcasts of the Swearing-In Ceremony

The National Museum of American History will live broadcast the swearing-in ceremony and the President’s speech at its Demonstration Stage, 1 West, in the museum’s new Innovation Wing.

Exhibitions Related to the Presidency

National Portrait Gallery

“America’s Presidents” exhibits multiple images of all presidents, including the cracked-glass photograph of Abraham Lincoln, the last portrait before his assassination. Along with the White House itself, the National Portrait Gallery has the only other collection of all the presidents’ portraits, housed in the Old Patent Office building in downtown Washington (Ninth and G streets N.W.).

National Museum of American History

 “The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden” explores the personal, public, ceremonial and executive actions of the presidents and their impact on history. The exhibition features more than 400 objects and a number of videos and interactive displays, including the portable desk on which Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and the microphone Franklin Roosevelt used to deliver his “fireside chat” radio broadcasts. 

“The First Ladies” explores the unofficial but important position of First Lady and the ways that different women have shaped the role to make their own contributions to the presidential administrations and the nation. The exhibition features more than two dozen gowns from the Smithsonian’s 100-year-old First Ladies Collection, including those worn by Frances Cleveland, Lou Hoover, Jacqueline Kennedy, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama, whose 2009 inauguration gown will be on display.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

There is an exhibit dedicated to President Barack Obama as the nation’s first black president; it focuses on the historic election of 2008.    

Inaugural Week Public Programs

National Portrait Gallery

On Thursday, Jan. 19, at 1 p.m., the museum will present “Portraits, Politics and Pageantry: On to the Next,” where Senior Historian David Ward will share fun-filled facts and little-known tales about the nation’s presidents and the issues they faced.

National Museum of the American Indian

On Saturday, Jan. 21, and Sunday, Jan. 22, the museum will host “Out of Many: A Multicultural Celebration of Music and Dance.” The free event will feature Native performers from across the country and performances by local cultural groups.

For more information about the 2017 Inauguration, go to the Presidential Inauguration Committee’s website at

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Linda St.Thomas

(202) 633-5188