News Releases

Update on Earthquake Damage at the Smithsonian

August 24, 2011

Update: As of Tuesday, Aug. 30, the Smithsonian Castle Building has re-opened to staff and visitors.


All public museums are open and have been determined safe for visitors and staff. 

We are continuing to assess the damage our buildings sustained during the earthquake on Aug. 23. The most serious structural damage we have sustained has been to the Smithsonian Castle Building on the National Mall and our storage facility in Suitland, Md. The Castle is currently closed to the public and to staff. Our storage facility, which is not a public facility, is currently closed to staff.

Damage to the Smithsonian Castle

  • Five decorative turrets on the east side of the Castle sustained significant damage. We are working to secure them so they will not sustain further damage during this weekend’s expected hurricane.

Damage to our collections

  • Fifty jars of scientific specimens preserved in alcohol at the National Museum of Natural History fell from their shelves. The specimens have been collected and re-secured in temporary holdings. The museum currently holds close to 1 million jarred specimens.

  • Eight jars of fish specimens located at our storage facility in Suitland, Md. fell from their shelves. The specimens have been collected and re-secured in temporary holdings.

We are continuing to assess damage to our collections at our museums and storage facility.  The Smithsonian currently holds 137 million artifacts, objects and specimens. Read more about the size and content of our collections on our Collections Fact Sheet.

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Media only
Linda St.Thomas
(202) 841-2517 cell

 

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Earthquake Damage: Bat Collection

Photo: James DiLoreto, Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

Museum specialist Charley Potter sorting fluid preserved specimens of bats from research collections at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History from shattered glass jars toppled during the Aug. 23, 2011 Virginia earthquake.

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Earthquake Damage: Botany Library

Photo: James DiLoreto, Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

Seven ranges of shelving involving about 10,000 volumes collapsed toward the windows of the Botany and Horticulture Library at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History as a result of the Aug. 23, 2011 Virginia earthquake, bending the steel shelving beyond repair.

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Earthquake Damage: Castle Damage, 1

Photo: John Gibbons, Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution Building ("The Castle") in Washington, D.C., sustained localized damage in the east wing during the Aug. 23, 2011 Virginia earthquake. Six chimneys and decorative turrets on the roof were damaged when some of the mortar holding the stones was shaken loose during the earthquake and some stones shifted in place.

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Earthquake Damage: Castle Damage, 2

Photo: John Gibbons, Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution Building ("The Castle") in Washington, D.C., sustained localized damage in the east wing during the Aug. 23, 2011 Virginia earthquake. Six chimneys and decorative turrets on the roof were damaged when some of the mortar holding the stones was shaken loose during the earthquake and some stones shifted in place.

Related photos: 

Earthquake Damage: Castle Damage, 3

Photo: John Gibbons, Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution Building ("The Castle") in Washington, D.C., sustained localized damage in the east wing during the Aug. 23, 2011 Virginia earthquake. Six chimneys and decorative turrets on the roof were damaged when some of the mortar holding the stones was shaken loose during the earthquake and some stones shifted in place.

Related photos: 

Earthquake Damage: Cracks in the Castle

Photo: Mark Avino, Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum

The Smithsonian Institution Building ("The Castle") sustained localized damages in the east wing during the Aug. 23, 2011 Virginia earthquake, including cracking of the eight chimneys and decorative turrets on the roof. Teams were deployed to secure them in order to avoid further damage from anticipated Hurricane Irene in the days following the earthquake.

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Earthquake Damage: Secretary Inspects Castle, 1

Photo: John Gibbons, Smithsonian Institution

Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough, right, examines the Smithsonian Institution Building ("The Castle") in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 26, 2011. The Castle sustained localized damage in the east wing during the Aug. 23, 2011 Virginia earthquake.

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Earthquake Damage: Secretary Inspects Castle, 2

Photo: John Gibbons, Smithsonian Institution

Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough, left, examines the Smithsonian Institution Building ("The Castle") in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 25, 2011. The Castle sustained localized damage in the east wing during the Aug. 23, 2011 Virginia earthquake.

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Earthquake Damage: Udvar-Hazy Ceiling Tiles

Photo provided by Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum

Following the Aug. 23, 2011 Virginia earthquake, Dave Pinna and Jason Steadman inspect and repair ceiling tiles at a height of 60' at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.



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