8 Great Crime Museums Justice Studies Students Will Love

fascinating crime museums

There are thousands of institutions and exhibits dedicated to art and music. Business professionals are surrounded by reminders of their life’s work. But as a criminal justice junkie, you feel a bit left out. It doesn’t seem like there is much out there for people like you—those with a love and dedication to solving crime and bringing justice.

Just when you thought there was no hope, we’re here to tell you there is! There are actually a handful of crime museums and historical sites that highlight criminal justice history, famous cases, hands-on crime exhibitions and more.  These places allow you to relive the monumental moments that made you fall in love with criminal justice.

So whether you’re just starting to explore criminal justice as a future career or you’ve been fighting crime for years, we identified eight criminal justice attractions that you’re going to want to visit.

Must-see criminal justice attractions

1. Crime Museum: Washington D.C.

The Washington D.C. Crime Museum provides visitors with insights into our country’s history of crime and its consequences, through the eyes of both the criminal and the criminal justice professional. Five different galleries feature subjects like criminal intent, the penal system, victims, crime prevention, criminal profiles and more.

Criminal justice students and professionals alike will love the interactive nature of the exhibits. Solve a real case in the CSI lab or practice your aim in a simulated FBI shooting range. If you prefer hands-on learning, this is one crime museum you won’t want to miss.

2. Eastern State Penitentiary: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Eastern State Penitentiary was the first of its kind, focusing on solitude and reformation while leaving behind corporal punishment and the ill treatment of inmates. Today the prison is open for tours, including an audio tour that explains prison-life before Eastern State, the effects of isolation and much more.

Known for its unique architecture, you’ll feel as if you’ve travelled back in time as you walk the halls where many famous inmates – including Al “Scarface” Capone – were held. As someone interested in putting criminals behind bars, you’ll get to experience what it was like to be a criminal early on in our nation’s history.

3. The Mob Museum: Las Vegas, Nevada

This museum, as its name suggests, showcases stories of real events in mob history. It’s housed in the formal federal courthouse where one of the famous Kefauver hearings was held, a hearing that helped expose organized crime. The museum features the often un-told stories of the mob and law enforcement and includes exhibits such as “Myths of the Mob” and “Organized Crime Around the World.” Hear real-life accounts from the criminal masterminds in our country’s past as the people committed to finding justice.

4. The Ohio State Reformatory Historic Site: Mansfield, Ohio

The Ohio State Reformatory was the home to thousands of incarcerated men from the late 1890’s through the 1900’s. Several movies and TV shows have been filmed at this location, most notably The Shawshank Redemption. Visitors can take a historic tour or a Hollywood tour, where you can explore 14 sites where The Shawshank Redemption was filmed.

5. The Villisca Ax Murder House: Villisca, Iowa

This house was the site of a horrific crime in the early 1990’s in which the Moore family and their two overnight guests were brutally murdered. The murderer was never found, though the site still remains and is open for tours to learn about the case, the evidence and the paranormal occurrences many claim still occur there today. It’s not often that you get to learn about an infamous crime while standing in the exact place where it happened.

6. The National Law Enforcement Museum: Washington D.C.

This museum is still in the making but will be the first of its kind, focused on celebrating the people, history and processes of enforcing the law. The mission of this museum is to “inspire every citizen to value law enforcement” by paying tribute to the men and women who have served and honoring those who have fallen.

7. Justice and Police Museum: Sydney, Australia

This museum allows visitors to enter into courtrooms, observe actual weapons used in crimes and learn about the criminal and police history of a city marked by “misadventure” in the 1800s. Not only will you get to see artifacts from many notorious criminals, forensic evidence from infamous crimes and a cell recreated to reflect the era, but you will get to do all of this in the beautiful, cultured city of Sydney, Australia. 

8. The Black Museum: Scotland Yard

The Crime Museum in Scotland Yard was dubbed the “Black Museum” by a reporter who was refused entry in 1877 and the name stuck ever since. It started as a place to collect items from prisoners for the purpose of training police officers on crime prevention and detection. Soon they had more than enough paraphernalia to create a museum, only open to special visitors.

The current museum only inhabits a few rooms, but contains items from world-famous cases such as Jack-the-Ripper and Charlie Peace. Rumor has it that negotiations are being made to open it to the public. Either way, you’ll love the mystery surrounding this dark secret and enjoy reading more about evidence from famous cases that are housed in its walls.

Learn from the past

Paying a visit to these crime museums will help you quench your thirst for criminal justice history. It’s time to take that learning to the next level by exploring some careers that will allow you to capitalize on your passion for justice. Check out the Criminal Justice Career Guide to learn more!  

Megan Ruesink

Megan is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She hopes to engage and intrigue current and potential students.

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