Crime Museums

Does the punishment always fit the crime? Delve into notions of truth and justice at these crime museums worldwide.
By: Lisa Singh

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Does the punishment always fit the crime? Crime museums worldwide have one specific focus: to showcase how a society responds to crime, real and imagined. Sometimes the punishment does indeed fit the crime. Other times the only “crime” is having been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Crime museums allow us to reflect upon these 2 extremes -- and to gain the perspective to know the difference. Delve deep into notions of truth and justice at these crime museums.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
What began as a high school was transformed into a prison of horrors -- part of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge communist regime. Today, the school-turned-prison stands as witness to the regime’s murderous actions, which claimed 2 million lives.

Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and State Museum
When prisoners began arriving at Auschwitz in 1940, they saw on the entrance gate: “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Sets You Free”). But this wasn’t really labor camp, but a killing ground that ultimately took 3 million lives.

National Museum of Crime & Punishment
Explore an interactive gallery exhibit on crime from the medieval ages to today. Then step into a fully intact crime scene. Also discover the heroes of law enforcement such as Eliot Ness, and walk onto the television set of America’s Most Wanted.

Crime & Punishment Museum
See a replica of an “Old Sparky” electric chair. Plus, view the harsh prison conditions in the American South in the early 1900s, such as an old trap door used for hanging and steel cages that once housed prisoners. They’re on display at this other crime and punishment museum, in Ashburn, GA.

National Law Enforcement Museum
Sometimes the only thing that stands between chaos and order is the thin blue line. Explore the story of US law enforcement through exhibits, including a history time capsule from the 1600s to the watershed events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Newseum's G-Men and Journalists
See the Unabomber’s cabin, Patty Hearst’s coat and gun and the electric chair that killed the convicted Lindbergh baby kidnapper. They’re part of nearly 300 items on display in the Newseum’s G-Men and Journalists exhibit, which runs through 2012.

The Mob Museum
Mark your calendars: In February 2012, the mob’s coming to town. The Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, aka The Mob Museum, includes a growing collection of artifacts, such as a rare FBI recording of an actual mob induction ceremony.

Siriraj Medical Museum
Extremely creepy alert: This medical museum in Bangkok displays the mummified remains of the first serial killer in Thailand’s modern history, Si Ouey Sae Urng. Convicted and executed, his remains were put on display as a warning against violent crime.

Crime Museum of Scotland Yard
Good luck getting into this museum: The Crime Museum, aka Black Museum, of Scotland Yard displays items from famous cases, such as Jack the Ripper. For now, only police officers and associated professionals are allowed in as part of their training. MPs and ambassadors have also visited.

The Medieval Crime Museum
When you hear “medieval,” what’s the first word that comes to mind? If it’s “barbaric,” you’ll have your suspicions confirmed at The Medieval Crime Museum in Rothenburg, Germany. Displays include instruments of torture that are downright, well, medieval.

Vienna Crime Museum (Wiener Kriminalmuseum)
Continue your journey through justice from the Middle Ages on at this Vienna museum. But warning: With the mummified head of an executed criminal on display, this museum is not for the faint of heart.

Rather than being a voyeuristic showpiece, these museums challenge viewers to explore their own notions of crime and punishment -- and how to build a more just society.



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