One of downtown Little Rock's top attractions will shut its doors to visitors because of the federal government shutdown, officials said.
The William J. Clinton Presidential Center will close its permanent exhibits and will not allow any access for walk-in visitors. Previously scheduled school and group tours will still be allowed inside, though they will be able to visit only the center's temporary exhibit, “And Freedom for All: The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”
Some visitors who arrived first thing Tuesday were surprised to find staff members putting up signs on the doors notifying visitors of the closure.
Among them were Robert Burgin and Linda Willis, a married couple from North Carolina who stopped in Little Rock on the way to Austin, Texas.
The couple said they figured it was possible the government shutdown would close the center, but they hoped not.
"We heard Bill Clinton was in town yesterday, so we hoped [if it did close] maybe he would come out front," Willis said. "We were disappointed because this is one of the reasons we stopped here."
Clinton didn't appear, but staff did let Burgin and Willis in to see the first-floor space, where one of Clinton's presidential limousines is on display.
Lisa and Linda Macioce, sisters from Pittsburgh, said they made sure to see Hot Springs National Park on Monday because they knew a shutdown would close it. But they were surprised to find the Clinton Center closed first-thing Tuesday after driving to Little Rock from Hot Springs.
"We're on vacation," Lisa Macioce said as she stood with her sister on the sidewalk outside the center. "It's very disappointing to me. This is it. We were just here for this."
Meanwhile, exhibit specialist Jennifer Wisniewski put up signs alerting visitors the center was closed "due to a Federal Government shutdown." Wisniewski said she was in for the morning to close down the center but would then be furloughed.
The center's restaurant, Forty Two, the Clinton School of Public Service, the Clinton Museum Store in the River Market and the Clinton Foundation offices will not close during the shutdown.
Previously scheduled events this week will continue as planned. Among them, Clinton is set to appear at the center Tuesday for an invitation-only program in which newly declassified CIA documents from the 1992-1995 Bosnian War will be released.