Water damage shuts D.C. museums for July 4

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Flood damage kept the National Museum of American History and the National Archives closed Friday at the start of the busy Independence Day holiday weekend.

The Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Visitors Center castle, also closed since Monday because of basement flooding, were to reopen, said Smithsonian spokesman Peter Golkin.

Some of the most severe damage to Washington's cultural attractions is at the National Archives, home to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The historic documents were all safe in a vault, officials said, but other documents were at risk of mildew damage, and crews were using giant dehumidifiers to try to protect them.

Grime stained the walls after flood waters rose to 8 feet in a two-year-old theater on Monday, knocking out the power. Clumps of debris, carpet and ceiling tiles remained Thursday.

"It's starting to smell like the bayou, isn't it?" facility manager Tim Edwards said.

The flood damage at the Archives was expected to cost at least $2 million to repair, but the Archives still planned to host its annual Fourth of July reading of the Declaration of Independence on Tuesday, and officials hoped to reopen the building later next week.

The Archives, which finished a $100 million renovation three years ago, typically has 5,000 visitors a day in June and July.

No Smithsonian museum exhibits were damaged by flood waters, Golkin said. Most damage was limited to mechanical equipment, but at the American history museum had flooding in the lower-level cafeteria and gift shop.

Carpeting and other fixtures need to be replaced before the building can reopen, Golkin said. It wasn't immediately clear how long that would take.

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