Pay respects to the founder’s crypt and explore the “Welcome to Your Smithsonian” exhibit while you can.
Written by Jessica Ruf | Published on
The Smithsonian Institution Building. Photograph courtesy of Robert Lyle Bolton/Flickr.
The Smithsonian Institution Building—better known as the Smithsonian Castle—will close Feb. 1 for what’s projected to be a five-year renovation. That means babies born today will be walking and talking by the time it reopens, so you may as well swing by this week for one last peek.
Aside from being an impressive place to stroll through—the 19th-century building is a designated National Historic Landmark—the Castle also houses a small but diverse collection of Smithsonian art and artifacts that provide a sampling of what each Smithsonian museum has to offer. The building’s “Welcome to Your Smithsonian” exhibit delves into the institution’s history as well as the life of its founder, James Smithson, who you can pay respects to inside the building’s crypt. The crypt, which will remain undisturbed throughout the renovation, is the final resting place of Smithson and is open to the public.
The Castle also houses a cafe, gift shop, and central visitor center (which will be expanding online).
According to the Smithsonian, this will be the first major renovation of the Castle in more than 50 years. It’ll largely focus on restoring the interior, which has been altered over the years, to its original historic appearance. Notably, among other restoration work, the Upper Great Hall will be returned to its original two-story height, creating a venue for public programming once again.
Once it’s closed, passersby can still admire the towers and gothic motifs from the Enid A. Haupt Garden, which will remain open throughout the renovation.