#MyrtleMondays: Museums for Crime Buffs

Do your summer plans include visiting a few museums? Did you know that there are museums whose collections are specifically tailored to the history of criminology, policing, and forensic science? Let’s have a look at some collections you might want to check out.

Read More: Let’s Talk Epigraphs

Scotland Yard’s “Black Museum” at the turn of the 20th century.

Since 1874, England’s Scotland Yard has maintained a teaching collection of artifacts—evidence—from its cases at the Crime Museum, nicknamed The Black Museum for its grim collections almost since its inception. Although at this time, the Crime Museum is only open to police officers, the Metropolitan Police also keep several other collections and archives that can be visited—including collections viewable online. Click here for more information.

Death mask of executed criminal Franz Muller, who murdered London businessman Thomas Briggs in 1864–the first murder committed aboard an English train. Muller was captured in part because he left his hat behind in the carriage.

Some of the storied artifacts collected by the Scotland Yard team were included in the Museum of London’s Crime Museum Uncovered exhibit.

The Greater Manchester Police Museum and Archives (Manchester, UK) is open to the public, but in case you won’t be in Manchester any time soon, they also have several interactive exhibits online tracing the history of policing. We have featured some of their videos here on #MyrtleMondays!

The Vancouver Police Museum (British Columbia, Canada) displays exhibits tracing the history of crime and policing in that city, including an exhibit of early mugshots like the one seen above. This summer they are featuring an exhibit on True Crime.

Alcatraz Island | D. Ramey Logan

One of the United States’s most legendary prisons, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary (near San Francisco, CA) is part of Alcatraz Island National Park. The Park Service maintains a robust collection tracing the island’s history, including its time housing some of the country’s most notorious federal prisoners. See more of their virtual exhibits here if you can’t make it to the Bay Area in person.

Sing Sing in 1855

The Sing Sing Correctional Facility (Ossining, NY) is one of the nation’s oldest operating prisons, observing its 200th anniversary next year. Their physical museum is currently under reconstruction, but they have a large collection of online exhibits exploring the history and future of the penal system. Check it out here.

The above collections are all public museums, operated by government agencies, but there are countless smaller, private institutions dedicated to preserving the history of criminology. There might well be one in your neck of the prairie—particularly if you live near the site of a notorious historical crime. This summer, why not do a little sleuthing and see what interesting artifacts you can find in your own neighborhood?


3 Responses to “#MyrtleMondays: Museums for Crime Buffs”

  1. Natalie Aguirre

    I didn’t realize there were museums like this. It sounds like a great find for those of us who want to write mysteries. Thanks.

    • Elizabeth C. Bunce

      I have found them to be a terrific resource (you’ll see my list is very Britain-heavy), although I’ve not had the chance to visit one in person. Nobody else in my family would want to go with me! “Look: there’s a quilt museum and a MURDER HOUSE!” But nooooo, we have to go to the beach or something instead… LOL

  2. Victoria L Dixon

    I would so go to a crime museum and could probably get my would-be forensic scientist teen to come with me for once. Have you been to the St. Joseph Asylum museum? Not criminally related, but it is fascinating. Kaii and I got to conduct an autopsy in the basement. We concluded the poor patient died of felt poisoning as he seemed to be made of it.