ASTC Members Respond to Partial Shutdown of U.S. Federal Government

About 800,000 Americans are now furloughed from their jobs working for the Federal government, and several science centers and museums have implemented free-admission programs and events to help government workers and the families maintain access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning opportunities.

With community members in nearly every U.S. city facing paycheck losses, confronted with childcare disruptions, and prohibited from doing any work from home, these institutions are motivated to help.

The Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum in Poughkeepsie, New York, pulled together a “Pizza and Play” party for affected Federal employees and their families, rallying local businesses and restaurants to support a January 10 evening event and enlisting board and staff to spread the word on social media. Executive Director Lara Litchfield-Kimber told The Chronicle of Philanthropy that she hoped the event would “provide an evening of normalcy.”

“We are in a very expensive part of the country, and not having paychecks for the holidays spilling into the start of a new year . . . I look around at our staff, and I know we couldn’t weather something like that.”

She said the whole neighborhood became engaged, with a chef down the street donating all the pizzas, a board member’s brother providing lasagna from his restaurant, and another shop donating sweet cupcakes for dessert.

Details: Lara Litchfield-Kimber, Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum ( Details | Facebook | Twitter )


In Colorado, where more than 54,000 people are usually at work serving the country, both the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum in Denver are offering free admission through the end of January. Stephanie Wood, Director of Guest Services at the natural history museum, told a local television station on January 5, when the new admission waiver went into effect,

“We thought, this is a group of people probably going through some really uncertain times; they probably would enjoy a break from worrying about this, and we decided we wanted to offer them free admission.”

Details, Denver Museum of Nature & Science Details: Twitter
Details, Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum: Details | Facebook | Instagram


“We followed Denver’s lead and put this offer out via social” on January 9, said Hillary Olson, President and CEO of the Rochester Museum & Science Center in New York. The institution—which is reopening its Strasenburgh Planetarium on January 12 following the he biggest renovation and upgrade project in its 50-year history—is offering free admission to furloughed Federal employees during the shutdown. 

Details: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram 


At the Fleet Science Center and the San Diego Natural History Museum in San Diego, California, Federal employees and contractors affected by the partial government shutdown can enjoy free admission on the weekend of January 12–13, as well as at other institutions in the city’s Balboa Park cultural hub, including the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego Air & Space Museum, and San Diego Museum of Art. Subsequently, the Fleet extended its offer to cover the week of January 24–31 and the natural history museum announced its offer will last for the duration of the shutdown.

Details, Fleet Science Center:  Details | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram 
Details, San Diego Natural History Museum:  Details | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram 


In the upstate mountain wilderness of New York’s Adirondack Park, The Wild Center operates only Fridays–Sundays during the winter season. But it will be offering free admission to all Federal employees and their families on those days through January 31. Executive Director Stephanie Ratcliffe said

“We’re hoping to offer some respite for people and provide an opportunity for their families to visit and make some happy memories when they would otherwise be working”

All visitors are welcome to a free snowshoe rental and can hit the trails and explore on their own or on a guided naturalist walk, or stay cozy inside with all the exhibitions, films, and animals.

Details: Nick Gunn, The Wild Center ( Facebook | Twitter | Instagram )


The Children’s Science Center in Fairfax, Virginia—through the generosity of its STEM Starter Fund donors—is able to offer furloughed Federal employees, contractors, and their families free admission beginning Saturday, January 11, until further notice. The organization opened its Lab facility in 2015 and was the first science center in Northern Virginia, an area with a heavy concentration of Federal workers.

Details: Dorothy Ready, Children’s Science Center ( Details | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram )


The Madison Children’s Museum in Wisconsin is offering $1 admissions to help furloughed Federal workers and their families for the duration of the partial shutdown. The new program is part of the museum’s Access for Everyone initiative, which has $1 admission fees for those who qualify based on their participation in a number of programs (most, but not all, need-based).

Details: Sandra Bonnici, Madison Children’s Museum ( Details | Facebook | Instagram )


Another institution that decided to offer $1 admissions for visitors affected by the partial shutdown is the Sciencenter in Ithaca, New York. Executive Director Dean Briere said it was a logical choice to provide an opportunity for furloughed workers to visit.

“We’ve just finished our strategic framework process, and one of our directional indicators is accessibility—expanding the opportunities for everyone to engage with science by removing barriers—and we already have program in place, Museums for All, where people can get in for a $1. So we’re just expanding that.”

Details: Kelly Barclay, Sciencenter ( Details | Facebook | Twitter )



These ASTC members are also providing free or reduced admission for affected workers and their families


Is your institution doing something in response to this situation? Are you affected in other ways? ASTC would like to know—please write us at


Updated January 24, 2019