Austin's current coronavirus surge has claimed a museum casualty: The LBJ Presidential Library has closed its doors until further notice.
"Effective August 9, 2021: The National Archives and Records Administration is temporarily closing the LBJ Presidential Library," the museum posted on its website August 9. "This is due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in Travis County, Texas."
Last week, Austin-Travis County officially returned to Stage 5 — the highest level of the region's COVID-19 risk-based guidelines. Recommendations include asking that vaccinated, high-risk individuals avoid large gatherings where masks aren’t required, while unvaccinated individuals are asked to avoid all gatherings and travel, and wear a mask when conducting essential activities.
After months of remaining closed due to the pandemic, the LBJ Library reopened to the public in July with a brand-new exhibition, "Lady Bird: Beyond the Wildflowers," celebrating the life and legacy of former first lady Lady Bird Johnson. Just weeks later, it's closed again.
No public events — including tours, school group visits, public meetings, external conferences, or facility rentals — will be held for the time being, the LBJ Library says, and the Reading Room remains closed. Visitors who purchased tickets for August 9 entry and beyond will receive an email from firstname.lastname@example.org; the online store continues to operate.
"We are making every effort to continue providing essential services and respond to inquiries at email@example.com," the website states.
Other Texas museum closures
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 in Dallas and The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station.
The Washington, D.C.-based National Archives and Records Administration oversees presidential library operations.
"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.
According to a Bush museum spokeswoman, the outdoor Texas Native Park is still open for self-guided strolls. Café 43 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com for ticket refunds and more information.
The SMU campus remains open.
The George HW Bush Museum on the campus of Texas A&M University shuttered on Sunday, August 8.
"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. "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.