DC Dwelling: The National Museum of Crime and Punishment

by - Thursday, October 11, 2012

So I realize it's been a while since I've done a DC Dwelling post, but mainly it's because I've been a big lame-o who hasn't been doing much on my weekends other than watching football and tailgating.

Tailgate group shot
Group shot from last week's tailgate

But the other day, I finally got out and did something DC-esque that's worth sharing.

I went to the National Museum of Crime and Punishment. Now the Crime and Punishment museum isn't one of the many, many free museums in the city. So when there's so much art and history that you can see for free around here, why would anyone pay to go to a museum?

Because it's awesome obviously. (Oh and maybe because my friend invited me and already had tickets, so it was free for me anyway...)

But I will say, this is one museum worth the entrance fee.

From the outside the museum didn't look very big, but once we were inside and walking around, I realized the place is kind of huge.

Like its name implies, the museum takes you on a tour of crime and punishment throughout history. We started by seeing a variety of medieval torture devices. I'm fairly certain there were some precursors to water boarding in that exhibit, and then we moved on to colonial times, where we learned it was a crime for a man to kiss his wife outside of the house on the Sabbath. (PDA apparently wasn't cool back in the day either).

Then we headed to the Wild West, where I read about my favorite bad-ass outlaw Billy the Kid. (Really the Ballad of Billy the Kid might just be my favorite Billy Joel song). It was crazy to see "Wanted" signs and sheriff's notices and guns from that era. I mean, how does that stuff even survive that long and then somehow end up in a museum where I can see it?

From the Wild West it was  off to the Depression and the time of prohibition and America's most well-known gangsters.

Yes that is the car Bonnie and Clyde were killed in. Yes it is on display in the museum. And yes, being about two feet away from it was awesome.

We learned about famous prisons like Alcatraz and Sing Sing, read about notorious serial killers like Ted Bundy and that creepy clown murderer guy, and after learning about all the famous bad guys, we got to learn about the punishment side of things.

We walked into a teeny tiny jail cell and curled up on the less than comfortable bed. We saw a guillotine, gas chamber and I very quickly walked past the info on lethal injections. Me and needles....we don't get along.

But my favorite part of the whole museum was probably the interactive section where we got to play some police simulation video games where we drove  a police car to the scene of an accident and shot guns at bad guys open firing at us.

I learned I would not make a good cop. I failed epically at driving the car and never actually made it to the scene of the accident because I kept getting in crashes myself. And my gun handling skills were even worse. I fired about seven shots total. Hit the target three times, but not one was a lethal shot.

Meanwhile my friend fired far less, hit the target more often and oh, had a head shot. (That wasn't creepy at all to watch...)

Apparently I learned nothing when I went to the firing range that one time.

Hands down this might have been my favorite museum ever. So, so worth the price of admission and definitely a fun way to spend a few hours.

What's your favorite DC museum?

**All photos are from the museum's website.**

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  1. Huh. I didn't even know that museum existed, and I thought I'd seen all the DC museums. My favs art the art musuem and the Holocaust museum. The 2nd one is so depressing, but so well done.

  2. It's so funny that we talked about this museum at lunch and then I saw it here on your blog. I love the Crime & Punishment Museum! I have to say we are spoiled, and I hate paying full rpice for museums because of it. Thankfully, Living Social and Groupon run a deal for this museum every few months.

  3. this museum definitely sounds cool! i would love to do the simulation - i am sure i'd suck too :) will have to do this next time i'm in DC!

  4. Thank you for the great write-up and for coming to our museum. We reposted your blog on our facebook page! http://www.facebook.com/NMCPinDC?ref=hl