National Children’s Museum at Risk of Permanently Closing, Norton Requests Emergency Measure

Mar 20, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today sent a letter to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) asking for a floor vote on her National Children’s Museum Act (H.R. 5919) or to include it in the next coronavirus stimulus bill.

 

The National Children’s Museum (NCM) is the only federally-designated museum that pays rent in a federal building and, as such, must charge admission to offset expenses. Given the closure of the museum during the coronavirus pandemic, NCM may not be able to survive without the assistance of this important legislation. The bill would allow the newly redesigned NCM, the nation’s first combination children’s museum and science center, to remain centrally located in the Ronald Reagan Building in our nation’s capital. 

 

“The District of Columbia for too long was the only major city without a children’s museum,” Norton said. “This museum is very important to me, my district and the millions of visitors to the nation’s capital. When it opened in February the National Children’s Museum immediately drew crowds from across the country, and it will draw crowds again if the Congress steps in now to help secure its space in the Ronald Reagan Building.”

 

The letter follows:

 

 

 

Dear Leader Hoyer and Chairwoman Lowey:

 

I write to request that you schedule for a floor vote under suspension of the rules or include in the next coronavirus response bill the bipartisan National Children’s Museum Act (H.R. 5919), which would require the Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) to enter into a cooperative agreement with the National Children’s Museum (NCM), a federally designated museum, to allow NCM to remain in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, a federally owned building, without charge. 

 

We are very concerned about the ability of the NCM, a newly opened museum located in the nation's capital, to survive in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Before NCM opened its doors on February 23, 2020, the District of Columbia was the only major city in the country that did not have a children’s museum. NCM immediately attracted many visitors from throughout the National Capital Region and the country, but was forced to close on March 13, 2020, because of the coronavirus pandemic and will be closed for the rest of this month, and probably much longer. This is the only congressional designated museum that pays rent in a federal building and, as such, charges admission to offset expenses. Given the urgency of plummeting ticket sales and closure of D.C. public schools, NCM may not be able to survive without the assistance of this important legislation.

 

The bill would allow the newly redesigned NCM, the nation’s first combination children’s museum and science center, to remain centrally located in the nation’s capital for the benefit of all. Originally named the Capital Children’s Museum, NCM was a staple in the region for decades. The institution opened in 1974 in a former convent on H Street Northeast. In 2003, Congress recognized the great value in having a children’s museum in the District and officially designated the museum the National Children’s Museum. By 2004, NCM had outgrown its home on H Street, and found a new location in Maryland. Since 2015, NCM’s presence has been digital, serving public school students and public libraries online.

 

Now located in its new home in the Ronald Reagan Building at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, NCM is poised to bring new and innovative STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) exhibits to the nation’s capital, building on more than 30 years of educating National Capital Region children and families.

 

Despite the many benefits it brings to the nation’s capital, NCM remains an outlier for upkeep and maintenance. NCM is the only congressionally designated museum expected to pay rent in a federal building. This bill would allow NCM to remain in its current federal location without payment of rent, permitting staff to focus on bringing 21st century STEAM learning techniques to the nation’s capital.

 

I ask that you schedule this important bill for immediate floor consideration under suspension of the rules or include this bill in the next coronavirus response bill. The viability of NCM depends on Congress allowing the museum to stay in the Ronald Reagan Building rent-free. Thank you for your consideration.

 

 

Sincerely,


Eleanor Holmes Norton

 

 

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