Museum Of Natural History Gates

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC

The south National Mall-facing entrance at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History has massive cast iron night gates intended to seal the entrance when the museum is closed. These gates are original to the construction and described in the 1913 report as constructed of cast iron, weighing 11,488 pounds and operated by pneumatic power. The gates are now frozen in place, in an open position, and have not been operated for an unknown time period.

Our conservators are working with Quinn Evans Architects to assess the conditions and develop treatment planning to restore the gates and make them operable again. Access to the gates is limited due to their location inside pocket doors. Conservators used an endoscope and an adjacent utility closet to partially view the gates. The historic records were thorough and provided greater understanding of the mechanical aspects of the gates.

The assessment covered the condition of the coatings, finishes, and the mechanical system such as the hanging track. Using these results, we provided detailed specifications for the cleaning, reconstruction, repair, and maintenance to restore the gates to their original appearance and operation.