March 18, 2021

Van Hollen, Capito Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Support National Children’s Museum

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) introduced legislation to provide measured fiscal relief to the National Children’s Museum, through a GSA agreement to pay the Museum’s leasing fee. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) introduced the House version, H.R. 1703, on March 10, 2021.

Founded as the Capital Children’s Museum in 1974, the Museum served children and families in the Washington region for thirty years in Northeast Washington, D.C. In 2003, the U.S. Congress designated it the National Children’s Museum (NCM), and for several years, NCM operated as a museum without walls by serving the region through traveling exhibitions, partnerships with other nonprofits, as well as community and school outreach programs. From 2012-2015, a small museum space was opened to the public at National Harbor, but closed in preparation for NCM’s next chapter in downtown D.C.

Unfortunately, the NCM reopened just days prior to the pandemic and had to once again close its doors until it is safe to reopen. Due to these circumstances, the Museum has faced severe fiscal challenges. This legislation would direct GSA to enter into an agreement with the Museum to cover its leasing expenses – approximately $1 million annually – as GSA does for the other Congressionally designated national museums.  

“For years, we’ve worked to get the National Children’s Museum officially up and running in our nation’s capital – after it had already served our communities for decades. But as with many organizations across our country, the pandemic could not have come at a worse time for the reopening of the Museum. Providing this modest fiscal relief to the Museum – which all other Congressionally-designated museums receive – will help it weather the COVID-19 storm and ensure that it can continue to bring joy to children visiting it for generations to come,” said Senator Van Hollen. 

“In 2003, I joined with my colleagues to designate the National Children’s Museum. Its recent reopening at a new location near the National Mall came at an unfortunate time, as the COVID-19 pandemic prevented our nation’s kids from experiencing all the museum has to offer. This effort will help ensure that as life returns to normal, the National Children’s Museum will be there to provide enriching experiences for children in the D.C. area and from around the world,” said Senator Capito. 

“Thank you, Senator Van Hollen, for reintroducing this important bill in the Senate. The National Children’s Museum 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, allowing it to focus on bringing 21st century science, technology, engineering, arts, and math learning techniques to the nation’s capital,” said Congresswoman Norton. 

“The National Children’s Museum is one of many key attractions for American families visiting our nation’s capital. It’s unfortunate that pandemic restrictions forced the museum to close shortly after moving to a new location, but with vaccinations increasing exponentially each day, families will be eager to once again visit Washington. Our bipartisan legislation provides the Museum with financial flexibility to focus their resources on serving children who visit and would treat the Museum like other Congressionally-designated museums,” said Congressman Davis. 

“National Children's Museum is a crucial part of the cultural landscape in our nation's capital. The Museum is a home for innovation and science education, serving children and families through hands-on exhibits and programs. Despite having to close our doors just 18 days after opening in February 2020, the Museum has served teachers and students in 45 states + DC with virtual field trips and other digital resources throughout the pandemic. Private donations allowed for the renovation of a previously empty federal space into the Museum, but we are now the only Congressionally-designated museum expected to pay rent to the federal government. The Museum will bring in millions of dollars in federal revenue every year through the building's parking garage and other amenities, but this legislation is critical to its success,” said Crystal Bowyer, President and CEO, National Children’s Museum.

“The National Children’s Museum is unique in the landscape of Washington, DC’s museums and fills a void in the city with its new home in downtown DC,” said Elliott L. Ferguson II, President & CEO of Destination DC, the official destination marketing organization for Washington, DC. “We know that when the museum reopens, it will be a top attraction in the city welcoming visitors and locals alike. The pandemic has been challenging for everyone, especially children. Having a fun, educational and centrally-located museum that’s just for them will assist in ensuring a vibrant downtown for family travel and is an undeniable strength while promoting Washington, DC as a top travel destination."

“Museums are a vital part of the nation’s education infrastructure. This legislation is critical to ensuring the National Children’s Museum can devote its resources to supporting the STEAM education of children and families not only in the nation capital region, but across the country,” said Laura Lott, president and CEO, American Alliance of Museums.

“Children’s museums exist in almost every metropolitan area in the United States, and can be seen as a barometer of a community’s support for a healthy and happy childhood for all our youngest citizens,” said Laura Huerta Migus, Executive Director, Association of Children’s Museums (ACM). “ACM research shows that 64% of our museum members receive rent assistance from public sources in some capacity, showing that the National Children's Museum Act follows best practices from communities across the country. This Congressional support would constitute both a community investment in the excellent work National Children’s Museum does for the DC area, and a national investment in the children’s museum field.”