Newsroom of the Smithsonian Because the Smithsonian museums are free, we cannot base our visit tallies on a number of tickets sold.
Smithsonian security officers use hand clickers to count everyone entering the museums (in some buildings they count people leaving) through public entrances during the hours the museums are open. The counts sometimes include staff, as well as visitors who leave the museum and return. A person visiting three Smithsonian museums on any given day will be counted three times. For these reasons, we always refer to the numbers below as "visits" rather than "visitors." The newest Smithsonian museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), has an automated counting system that counts visitors (and staff) as they enter the museum.
Visit numbers are compiled on a calendar-year basis. Since 2001, the total visits to the Smithsonian have also reflected the number of visits to the National Zoo.
Numbers are rounded to the nearest thousand or tenth of a million (M), depending on volume.
All Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo closed to the public on March 14, 2020 due to COVID-19. Seven museums and the National Zoo reopened in phases between July and Sept. with timed tickets and a limited schedule. The museums and the National Zoo closed again on Nov. 23.