Smithsonian Castle Museum Rocked By 5.9 Earthquake

Worlds largest museum closes to assess damages

The 5.9 earthquake that shook the National Mall in Washington DC yesterday and was felt up and down most of the Eastern seaboard,has closed the Smithsonian for a second day. The Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum complex & research organization composed of 19 museums, 9 research centers, and the National Zoo. The Institution and museums are to remain closed for health and safety reasons and to survey the vast collection for damages.

“The museum was shut Tuesday afternoon said Valeska Hilbig, spokesperson for the National Museum of American History. “As for Wednesday and beyond, we recommend that visitors check websites and Facebook pages for reopening information. The head of the Smithsonian, Dr. Wayne Clough, also happens to be a structural engineer who specializes in earthquakes. He spoke about yesterday’s earthquake in D.C. and the damage to the Castle Building. After the quake hit Washington, Secretary Wayne Clough ordered the Smithsonian buildings closed. Clough, an engineer and earthquake expert, was in a meeting when he thought a truck with heavy equipment was rolling by. Quickly, he realized it wasn’t. Reports that “cracking inside the building and that some of the windows had shattered.” have led the city to shut all monuments including the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. The Washington Monument and the National Cathedral are likely to remain closed for several days.

The Castle is the Smithsonian Institution’s original home and now the location of many administrative offices. It is a Gothic Revival building designed in red stone by James Renwick Jr. It was completed in 1855. The building comprises a central section, two extensions or ranges, and two wings. Four towers contain occupiable space, while five smaller towers are primarily decorative, although some contain stairs. As constructed, the central section contained the main entry and museum space (now the Great Hall), with a basement beneath and a large lecture room above. Two galleries on the second floor were used to display artifacts and art. This area is now the Visitor’s Information and Associates’ Reception area. The East Range contained laboratory space on the first floor and research space on the second. The East Wing contained storage space on the first floor and a suite of rooms on the second as an apartment for the Secretary of the Smithsonian. This space is currently used as administrative offices and archives. The West Range was one story and used as a reading room. The West Wing, known as the chapel, was used as a library. The West Wing and Range are now used as a quiet room for visitors to go. On the exterior, the principal tower on the south side is 91 feet (28 m) high and 37 feet (11 m) square. On the north side there are two towers, the taller on 145 feet (44 m) tall. A campanile at the northeast corner is 17 feet (5.2 m) square and 117 feet (36 m) tall. All of the stone structure will now be checked for cracks and damages.