Frequently Asked Questions

As a public health precaution due to COVID-19, the National Museum of African American History and Culture will temporarily close to the public starting Monday, November 23. We are not announcing a reopening date at this time and will provide updates on our website and social media. We appreciate your understanding.

How do I get there?

Please visit Smithsonian visitor maps for directions to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington Monument and National Mall.

How do I contact the Museum with questions?

For more information about visiting the Museum, please call 1-844-750-3012 or email NMAAHCVisitorServices@si.edu.

Are passes necessary to enter the Museum?

Yes, timed-entry passes are necessary to enter the Museum. Please visit our timed-entry passes information page for more information on obtaining timed-entry passes.

Should I arrive before the time on my timed-entry pass?

Visitors will be able to redeem their pass up to 30 minutes before their scheduled entry time. Please do not arrive before the entry time on your pass.

Is the Museum accessible and ADA compliant?

The Museum is committed to providing inclusive experiences for all audiences and is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Accommodations include accessible facilities and entrances. There is a limited amount of free manual wheelchair loans on a first-come, first-served basis.

Open captioning is included in all exhibition videos. American Sign Language interpretation and Access Services are available for scheduled programming by contacting us with two weeks advance notice. T-Loops are available at the Welcome Desk.

Is the Museum partnering with any third-party organizations to provide packaged tours including passes, transportation, and hotel?

The Museum does not partner with tour organizations or companies.

Is parking available for cars and buses?

There are no Smithsonian Institution public parking facilities on the National Mall. A few nearby commercial lots and garages may have available parking. Maps of the area around the Museum are available. If you must drive, please see parking options.

For additional information on bus parking, contact the National Park Service Mall Operations Office at 202-426-6841. For all other questions about visiting the Museum, please call 1-844-750-3012.

How can I find out about street closures and traffic that may affect my travel to the Museum?

Please check DC Traffic Advisory for the most up to date information regarding any street closures or changes to traffic patterns affecting the area around the Museum.

Are food and drink allowed in the Museum?

Bag lunches and beverages that are properly closed and secured may be carried through the Museum.  Please note that we do not offer locker storage at this time. Groups who bring food are encouraged to picnic on the National Mall.

Consumption of outside food and drink is not permitted in the Museum except for bottled water.

Why does NMAAHC have reduced days and hours? 

The Museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesday and open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., except Nov. 26, Dec. 24, Dec. 25, and Jan. 20, 2021. The exhibitions will begin to close starting at 3:45 p.m. We are taking a cautious, gradual approach to reopening, which includes starting out with reduced days and/or hours of operation and limiting the number of visitors in our Museum. We will evaluate and adjust this approach as we move forward.

Will everything be open at NMAAHC?

We’re evaluating our exhibitions, interactives, and indoor spaces on a case-by-case basis. Some of these features may be closed or operate at limited capacity:

  • Most seated theaters, including the Oprah Winfrey Theater and Corona Pavilion, remain closed to visitors. 
  • Larger objects such as the segregated Southern Railway Car and Jones-Hall-Sims House remain closed to visitors. 
  • Some exhibitions and interactives, including the Reflection Booths, Genealogy Database, Arc Interactive, São José Interactive, Green Book, Power of Place, Neighborhood Record Store, and In the Studio, remain closed to visitors. 
  • Some galleries that remain open are designed with narrow entrances and pathways, as well as low ceiling heights, in order to create an intimate and close experience for visitors; the Museum requires visitors to follow one directional flow in these areas and posts signage accordingly to allow for social distancing. 
  • The Museum Store is open, but the Sweet Home Café remains closed until further notice. 

We will open as much as we determine it is safe to open, but some spaces will remain closed for now. Visitors should check our website for complete information about programs, theaters, restaurants, retail, simulations and high-touch, interactive exhibits.

The restrooms will be open. However, lockers for visitors will not be available. 

How are you handling interactives?

We’re evaluating our interactives on a case-by-case basis. Some of these features may be unavailable.

Will there be security screening? 

We will have our usual screening at the building entrance, where we will also be checking that all visitors are wearing face coverings. 

We are encouraging visitors to limit the number of personal belongings they bring to the Museum, to increase the speed at which they move through security checkpoints, ensuring maximum social distancing.

Will Sweet Home Café and retail shops be open?

The Museum Store is open, but the Sweet Home Café remains closed during the initial stage of reopening. Please visit our website for updates. 

Will guided tours, demonstrations, and events resume?

All on-site public tours and events are currently suspended.

Why is the Museum using timed passes for entry?

Due to the unprecedented interest, a timed pass system is available to serve visitors.

What is a timed pass?

The Museum offers free timed passes to ensure the safety, security and quality of the visitor experience. Passes are timed at fifteen-minute intervals, and each timed pass has a unique entry code that can only be used once. 

Please reserve only the actual number of passes that you need. To improve your chances of receiving a pass, be prepared with multiple dates that will work for your schedule, and aim for a weekday visit.

The timed pass is for a self-guided visit to the museum. It is difficult to experience the entire museum in one visit.  If you can, please plan to return. You may experience large crowds and extended wait times on weekends and holidays.

How many people will be able to enter the facility? 

During the initial phase our reopening to the public, we are limiting the number of people who can enter the facility to 250. After monitoring the success of the initial phase of reopening, the Museum will increase the number of visitors to 1,100 in the next phase of reopening and gradually increase to full capacity once we feel that it is safe for all our visitors and staff.  We are also not accommodating walk-up visitors.

Why is NMAAHC accommodating less visitors while other museums are welcoming a larger number?

Due to the constricted spacing of the C-level galleries and the average time visitors stay in our Museum, we are taking every precaution necessary to ensure visitors safety by limiting the number of visitors inside the Museum.  As we acquire additional information on the success of our enhanced safety measures and our initial reopening phase, we will increase the number of timed-passes to accommodate additional visitors. 

Are you counting people as they enter for crowd control purposes?

Yes. Our timed-entry system will allow us to track how many people are in each facility at a given time, to ensure we maintain a limited capacity that allows for safe social distancing.

When can people begin to reserve timed-entry passes? 

Beginning September 14, visitors will be able to reserve passes online and by phone 1-844-750-3012.  

How far in advance will timed-entry passes be released? 

Individuals can schedule their visits up to 30 days in advance. Passes are released throughout each day, beginning at 11:00 a.m., for time slots 30 days out. Passes are no longer released three months in advance. 

How many passes will an individual be permitted to reserve? 

An individual can reserve up to six passes. At this time, groups larger than six are strictly prohibited to ensure our visitors and staff's safety. To help make passes available for as many people as possible, we require our visitors to do the following:    

  • Please reserve only as many passes as you are sure you can use. 

  • If, upon arriving at the Museum, you learn that all members of your party will not be able to make the visit with you, please return the passes you do not need to the Museum staff at the security check-in point. Please do not give your passes to other visitors waiting in line. 
  • Contact Tracing is a very important tool in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Please help us do this by not giving your extra passes to others waiting to enter the Museum. 

Will timed passes be used to limit the amount of time a visitor can spend at the Museum?

No, visitors who enter during their specified time will be able to stay as long as they would like.

What about low-tech or no-tech options?  

Visitors will have the option to reserve passes by phone at 1-844-750-3012.

Do children require timed-entry passes? 

Yes. Each visitor will require a pass, regardless of age.

How will visitors receive their pass? 

Visitors will be able to print their passes at home or download to their mobile device. Visitors who reserve passes by phone will receive their passes via email.

How will visitors present their passes when they arrive?

Printed and digital passes will be scanned at the entrances on Madison Drive.

What is the window for a visitor to redeem their timed-entry pass?

Visitors will be able to redeem their pass up to 30 minutes before their scheduled entry time.

Are you offering group visits? 

An individual will be able to reserve up to six passes. For the safety of our visitors and staff, groups larger than six are strictly prohibited. 

Who can people contact if they’re having trouble with their timed-entry passes? 

People can visit Etix customer service, call 1-844-750-3012, or email support@etix.com.

I'm a veteran, active duty personnel or first responder, do I still need a timed-entry pass to enter the Museum?

The Museum's policy allowing entry for veterans, active duty military, and first responders without a pass is temporarily suspended. All visitors must have a timed-entry pass. 
 

What is the NMAAHC doing to ensure the safety of visitors?

Among the steps we’re taking are:

  • The Smithsonian sincerely requests all visitors who are not feeling well stay home.
  • We require that visitors wear face coverings at all times.
  • Attendance will be limited using timed-entry passes.
  • We’re providing hand sanitizer throughout our facilities and conducting enhanced cleaning more frequently of high-touch areas and equipment used by visitors, such as wheelchairs.
  • We’re implementing other safety and social distancing protocols, including signage to alert visitors of one-way paths when appropriate and other directional guidance and tools, as well as closure of some sinks and stalls in restrooms; and maximum capacity limits for restrooms.
  • Our staff will stay home when sick, wear face coverings, practice social distancing, and wash and sanitize their hands frequently.

Are you limiting attendance?

We will be limiting the number of people in the Museum to allow for adequate social distancing, with capacity limits established by local jurisdictions as one of our guides. To manage the flow of visitors throughout the day, we will require visitors to obtain a free timed-entry pass. Visitors will reserve these passes on NMAAHC’s website in advance of their visit and will be able to select the time of day they want to visit.

Will you require visitors to wear face coverings?

Yes, in accordance with D.C. law, we will require visitors ages six and older to wear face coverings while visiting the Museum. Face coverings are also strongly recommended for visitors between the ages of two and six, per CDC guidelines.

The safety of our visitors, staff, and volunteers is our priority. Based on CDC guidance, we’ve determined that the best way to mitigate transmission of COVID-19 will be for our staff and visitors to wear face coverings. Visitors will be expected to wear face coverings inside. Face coverings must be worn over the nose and mouth. Face coverings may be removed while drinking water. Please note that water fountains will not be available.

What kinds of face coverings are permitted? 

Acceptable face coverings include cloth face coverings, disposable face coverings, scarves, bandanas, or other fabric covering the nose and mouth. Clear face shields are not permitted as a substitute for a face covering but may be worn over a face covering or face mask. Face coverings or face masks with an exhalation valve are not permitted.

How will you enforce face covering wearing inside the Museum? 

Social distancing and face coverings measures will be monitored and enforced by Museum security staff.  Visitors will be given verbal warning. 

Can I remove my face covering to take a picture?  

Visitors are required to wear face coverings at all times.  

Will visitors be responsible for bringing their own face coverings?

Yes, visitors will be responsible for bringing their own face covering.  Face coverings must always cover mouth and nose.

Why are you only requiring face coverings for ages six and older, when CDC guidance says ages two and older? 

We highly recommend that all visitors ages two and older wear a face covering, per CDC guidelines. To reduce risk further, we are requiring a face covering for all those ages six and older.

Will you make exceptions to your face covering policy for people with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a face covering?

Yes. Individuals who are unable to wear a face covering due to a medical condition or disability or is physically unable to remove a face covering are exempt. 

Will there be special hours (or access points) for high-risk visitors?

Not, at this time.

Will you conduct temperature checks at the entrance of the Museum?

Our Museum does not intend to conduct temperature checks at this time, but we will be monitoring and evaluating to determine if this is a measure we need to put in place in the future. We are asking all visitors to conduct a self-evaluation of their health before visiting, as there are a variety of symptoms beyond the temperature that should be monitored. It is our sincere request that all visitors who are not feeling well will remain home to take care of themselves or seek proper medical care.

Will you increase no-touch/contactless options for payment, maps, ticketing, and other materials?

Yes, digital maps are available on our website for visitors to use on their mobile devices. We will have options for both cash and credit card payments.

What is your procedure if a Smithsonian staff member tests positive? 

The Smithsonian has an established reporting protocol for staff who receive a positive test result and a comprehensive contact tracing program to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We investigate all reported cases, and the results of this contact tracing process trigger additional next steps, including procedures to directly inform affected parties and undertake additional cleaning measures. 

We rely on our visitors and staff to adhere to our safety precautions, including staying home when sick, maintaining a safe social distance of at least six feet, wearing face coverings at all times, and washing and sanitizing hands. 

What is your procedure if a visitor tests positive? 

Any member of the public who has visited a Smithsonian Museum and receives a positive test should contact their local public health department, in accordance with the process established by their local jurisdiction. The Smithsonian coordinates with local public health officials to receive pertinent information about positive cases, directly informs affected parties, and undertakes additional cleaning measures. 

We rely on our visitors and staff to adhere to our safety precautions, including staying home when sick, maintaining a safe social distance of at least six feet, wearing face coverings at all times, and washing and sanitizing hands. 

Can I receive advice about what to see at the Museum?

Visitor Services volunteers and representatives are available at the Walmart Information desk in Heritage Hall and throughout the building. They can provide advice and help you navigate all the opportunities and services that are part of the Museum experience.

Are outside tour operators able plan a tour for my group?

We cannot accommodate your request to bring a tour guide to lead your group visit. Any speeches, tours, singing, blocking of walkways, etc. that is not part of a program produced by the National Museum of African American History and Culture and that may prevent other visitors from experiencing the work fully is not permitted.

How long will it take to visit the Museum?

Please be prepared for extended wait times as you enter the Museum. It is difficult to say how much time it will take to visit the Museum, so much depends on the age and interests of our visitors. There are 85,000 square feet of exhibition space, nearly 3000 objects, 12 exhibitions, 13 different interactives with 17 stations, and 183 videos housed on five floors. The pace at which you choose to tour the Museum will determine the length of your stay.

The Museum's hours are 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Exhibitions and the Museum Store begin to close starting at 3:45 p.m. 

Is there a restaurant in the Museum?

The Museum’s Sweet Home Café will remain closed during the initial reopening stages.

What is available for those who are not English language speakers?

Printed brochures and the Museum’s mobile app are available in English, French and Spanish.

NMAAHC Maps are available in Chinese, French, and Spanish.

Smithsonian Informational Brochures are available at the Welcome Desk in the following languages: Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Museum’s mobile app are available in the following languages: English, French, and Spanish

Will there be a security check-in for the museum?

For everyone’s safety, all visitors are required to go through screening during the security process. You are greeted upon entry by one of our security personnel who conduct a thorough but speedy hand-check of all bags, briefcases, purses, strollers, and containers. All visitors are required to walk through a metal detector. Those unable to go through the metal detector will be hand-screened with an electronic wand by security personnel.

We’ve installed  protective safety  shields at bag-check screening stations and register.  We encourage you to limit  the  number of  personal belongings  and bags  you bring  into  our facilities  as they will be subject to a thorough search. Limiting the  items  you bring  will increase  your  speed through security  checkpoints,  helping us all maintain a safe social distance. Please note that we do not offer coat, bag, or locker storage at this time.

What items are not permitted in the museum?

  • 3D weapons, guns, or knives (including pen knives), aerosol cans, including pepper spray and Mace, scissors or tools
  • Animals (with the exception of Service Animals as defined by the Dept. Of Justice  https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm)
  • Banners, placards, or signs
  • Monopods, tripods, or selfie sticks
  • Outside food or drinks that are not properly closed and secured in a backpack

Is smoking permitted in the museum?

Smoking of any substance is not permitted in or around the Museum.

Is there a coat or bag check at the Museum?

We do not offer coat, bag, or locker storage at this time. Visitors are encouraged to leave large bags and packs behind, and to travel as lightly as possible for the best Museum experience.

Are there family friendly restrooms?

Restrooms designated for family use are on the upper levels of the Museum at each level above the Museum’s Central Hall.

Is the Museum accessible and ADA compliant?

The Museum is committed to providing inclusive experiences for all audiences and is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Accommodations include accessible facilities and entrances. There are free manual wheelchair loans on a first-come, first-served basis. Open captioning is included in all exhibition videos.

American Sign Language interpretation and Access Services are available by contacting us with two weeks advance notice. Movies shown during regular Museum hours of operation offer assistive listening devices and audio-description. T-Loops are available at the Welcome Desk.

For more information, please visit the Museum's listing of accessibility options for all visitors.

Can I bring my stroller, scooter, walker, wheelchair or any type of mobility device?

The Museum is accessible to visitors using strollers, scooters, walkers, wheelchairs and mobility devices. There are elevators available to visitors on every floor of the Museum.

Are wheelchairs available?

A very limited number of manual wheelchairs are available free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis for use while visiting the Museum. You are encouraged to bring a wheelchair with you due to limited availability. The Handicap Accessible Entrance is located on Constitution Avenue side of the Museum, visitors may ask for assistance from security personnel at the entrance.

Can I take photos and videos in the Museum?

Working members of the media who need to use a tripod or monopod must obtain permission from the museum’s Office of Public Affairs and must be escorted by a Museum staff member while in the building.

The Smithsonian permits still and video photography for noncommercial use only in its museums and exhibitions, unless otherwise posted. Photography of fine art is prohibited.

For the safety of our visitors and collections, the use of tripods, monopods, and selfie sticks is not permitted at any time. To assist with capturing your memories, the Museum provides a mobile application with a variety of images from our exhibitions and collections.

Notice: Visitors may be filmed, photographed, or recorded by the Smithsonian for educational and promotional uses, including for posting on the Smithsonian’s and other public websites.

How do I get media credentials?

All interview, filming, passes, and tour requests can be made online using our media requests form. You can also download NMAAHC's presskit (zip) and image files for media use.

What Photography or Film Making is authorized for the public at Smithsonian Museums?

The Smithsonian permits still and video photography for noncommercial use only in its museums and exhibitions. Please make media request to start the process of obtaining permission for photography or film making.

For the safety of our visitors and collections, the use of tripods, monopods, and selfie sticks is not permitted at any time. Working members of the media who need to use a tripod or monopod must obtain permission from the museum’s Office of Public Affairs and must be escorted by a museum staff member while in the building.

Notice: Visitors may be filmed, photographed, or recorded by the Smithsonian for educational and promotional uses, including for posting on the Smithsonian’s and other public websites.

How Do I Share my NMAAHC Images and Experiences on Social Media?

NMAAHC embraces social media as a way to stay connected with current audiences, reach out to new ones, and foster dialogue. There are numerous opportunities to share your presence at NMAAHC events through social media. Please check out our Social Media Toolkit for ideas on sharing your experience and follow us on these social media platforms: TwitterFacebookInstagram, and Snapchat.

How can I participate as a vendor in the Museum Store?

Please see our Museum Store Vendor page for instructions on how to participate.

How do I support the Museum?

Be a part of this seminal American moment. Individuals, foundations, corporations, and other organizations, please join us in this historic endeavor. Become a member or donor!

How may I volunteer?

Volunteers play an essential role in inspiring and engaging audiences.  If you are interested in volunteering with us, please visit our Volunteer Program page.