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. At many of our museums, 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, African American History and Culture, 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, African American History and Culture, 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.
Please consider leaving any items that need to be checked by security at home or at the hotel to speed entry.
- 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.
- No accommodations are available for eating bag lunches within the museums except in the Kogod Courtyard of the Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.
- 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.
The Smithsonian permits still and video photography for noncommercial use only in its museums and exhibitions, unless otherwise posted.
For the safety of our visitors and collections, the Smithsonian prohibits the use of tripods, monopods, or selfie sticks in our museums and gardens. This is a preventive measure to protect visitors and objects, especially during crowded conditions. We encourage museum visitors to take selfies and share their experiences—and leave the selfie sticks in their bags.
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.
Strollers are permitted in all museums*; a limited number of strollers are available for rent at the Zoo.
*Note: Strollers currently are not permitted in the Renwick galleries on Friday, Saturday and Sunday; holidays; and at other times when the galleries are especially crowded. Stroller parking is available at the 17th Street accessible entrance. This temporary measure is to protect the artworks.
Service animals are welcome in the museums and the National Zoo. Pets are not permitted.
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:
- 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
- Solicit for commercial or charitable purposes or distribute advertisements, pamphlets, handbills, and flyers
In addition to the above, while on Zoo premises, NO VISITOR SHALL:
- 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
- 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).