Federal Government Shutdown Comes to an End, Statement from Ford W. Bell, President, American Alliance of Museums

Oct. 17, 2013—American Alliance of Museums President Ford W. Bell made the following statement regarding last night’s legislation to end the federal government shutdown that began October 1 and to raise the debt ceiling and avoid defaulting on the national debt.

"The federal government shutdown has caused an enormous amount of pain in many corners of our nation, including furloughed employees, delayed federal benefits and economic hardship in many communities. The fact that so many federally operated museums and national parks were completely off-limits to the public for more than two weeks is a national disgrace.

"The closures of federally operated museums were just one element of how this government shutdown harmed museums. Our field faced delayed grant and contract payments, events and traveling exhibits in limbo, restricted research capacity, and decreases in attendance. 

"The agreement reached last night funds the government through January 15, suspends the debt limit until February 7, and calls for formal negotiations to determine a long-term budget plan by December 13.  So unless Congress and the president can work out a real solution, we could find ourselves back in this same position again in just a few months.

"This kind of Washington gridlock is not the way to effectively govern our nation, and I urge our elected leaders to renew their efforts to find a bipartisan fiscal path forward, and not just keep ‘kicking the can down the road’ with temporary fixes. The public simply deserves better.

"One important outcome of this shutdown is that there is no denying the effectiveness of our ‘museums are economic engines’ message, given the extensive and widely reported economic impact of so many federally operated museums and national parks being closed. Policymakers would be wise to remember this economic impact when determining whether to invest federal resources in museums.

"I’m also proud of the museums that stepped in to help during the shutdown. We heard numerous reports of museums welcoming record crowds and hosting events and meetings that were originally planned for federal property. And in many cases where a traveling exhibition was due to open in a federally operated museum, a nearby museum stepped in and welcomed the exhibit so the public would not miss out.

"Our immediate task ahead is to ensure that this new round of budget negotiations does not leave the charitable deduction vulnerable since limiting the charitable deduction has previously been identified as a potential way to increase tax revenue. We simply cannot let that happen, and we will need all nonprofit leaders to join this chorus to preserve the full value of the charitable deduction so museums and other nonprofits can continue to serve communities, especially during uncertain economic times.

“I hope the public will continue to make plans to visit our nation’s wonderful museums and national parks. Our member museums are looking forward to showing off their collections.”

Media Contact

Dewey Blanton
Alliance Communications