Coronavirus news

3 Texas presidential museums/libraries close amid new COVID-19 surge

3 Texas presidential museums/libraries close amid new COVID-19 surge

george hw bush presidential library
The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum is closed until further notice. Photo courtesy of National Archives

Texas' current coronavirus surge has claimed a museum casualty: The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station has closed its doors until further notice.

"The National Archives is committed to the health and safety of our visitors and staff," says a press release posted on the museum's website. (The Washington, D.C.-based National Archives and Records Administration oversees presidential library operations. ) "As such, they have made the difficult decision to close the ... museum to the public until COVID conditions improve in Brazos County."

The Bush Family Gravesite and the museum grounds, including the Presidential Pond, will remain open to the public, the release says. Family picnics and photography are permitted on the grounds (social distancing and masks are encouraged), but restroom facilities and drinking fountains are not available. 

Bush Library staff will continue to serve the public remotely by responding to emailed requests for records and by creating online programming, they say.

Elsewhere in Texas, two other presidential libraries in high-risk Texas cities also have re-shuttered this week due to COVID-19: The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University and The LBJ Presidential Library in Austin.

"Effective Monday, August 9, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum is temporarily closed due to COVID-19 cases in the Dallas area," the museum posted on its website August 9. "Café 43 remains open Tuesday through Saturday by reservation."

As of August 9, Dallas County's COVID-19 threat level is at "red" (the highest level on the color-coded chart), which means "high risk of transmission" — largely due to the highly infectious Delta variant. Hospitalizations due to coronavirus in North Texas have increased 292 percent over the past month; about 90 percent of people hospitalized have been unvaccinated, the county health department says.

During times of highest threat, the health department urges vaccinated individuals to mask and physically distance at museums; outdoor exhibits are preferred. Those who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or are immunocompromised should not visit museums and utilize virtual options, they say.

According to the Bush museum spokeswoman, the outdoor Texas Native Park is still open for self-guided strolls. Café 43 also remains open to the public by reservation and for takeout Tuesday through Saturday, she says.

Library personnel also will continue to respond to written requests for records at gwbush.library@nara.gov. 

The museum and museum store are closed to visitors. People who have purchased upcoming museum tickets have been notified personally with instructions for ticket refunds, the spokeswoman says. Those visitors may contact boxoffice@bushcenter.org for ticket refunds and more information.

The SMU campus remains open.

The Bush Center had closed in spring 2020 during the initial wave of pandemic shutdowns. It reopened gradually, debuting a highly touted exhibition of the former president's portraits of immigrants in April 2021. The museum's permanent exhibition didn't reopen until May 25, 2021. Less than three months later, it's all closed again.

Meanwhile, a notice posted on the LBJ museum's website says, "Effective August 9, 2021: The National Archives and Records Administration is temporarily closing the LBJ Presidential Library. This is due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in Travis County, Texas. We are making every effort to continue providing essential services and respond to inquiries at johnson.library@nara.gov."

No public events — including tours, school group visits, public meetings, external conferences, or facility rentals — will be held for the time being, they say, and the Reading Room remains closed. Visitors who have purchased tickets for August 9 and beyond will receive an email from admissions@lbjlibrary.org; the online store continues to operate.