WASHINGTON — At noon today a ribbon will be snipped, officially opening the Smithsonian Institution's newest national museums, the 9th and 10th to be constructed on the broad sweep of the National Mall.
Today's festivities inaugurate the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the National Museum of African Art, plus the S. Dillon Ripley Center and the 360,000-square-foot, $73.2-million underground structure built to house them. The new building fills a hole 60 feet deep and large enough to hold three Lincoln Memorials side by side. The party will be held on their landscaped roof, in the new $3-million Enid A. Haupt Garden.
The cutting of the ribbon not only marks an opening but also indicates the closing of a vast construction project, one that gradually has filled the front yard of the Capitol with the largest, best-attended museum complex in the world.
Only a single potential building site remains on the Mall, between the glass-roofed Botanical Gardens and the Air and Space Museum. And it already has been assigned.
Last Friday, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, (D-Hawaii) introduced a bill calling for a new National Museum of the American Indian, which would bring to Washington the bulk of the Heye Foundation's incomparable collection.