About The Museum

Recognizing the importance of Angola’s history, Warden Burl Cain called together a group of interested people, including some of the wardens and presented his ideas about creating a prison museum at Angola which would document the history of Louisiana’s prisons so as not to repeat the horrors of the past. The Louisiana State Penitentiary Credit Union offered their former bank building to house the museum, right outside the gates of the penitentiary.Mrs. Nadine Tanner, Warden’ Cain’s administrative assistant, was directed to implement the project. The museum officially opened in 1997 and an advisory board was created consisting of corrections’ practitioners, scholars and museum professionals. After a board meeting in which the members “passed the hat” for the needed fees to file for incorporation and non-profit status with the state, the Louisiana State Penitentiary Museum Foundation was created in 1999.

Receiving more than xxxx visitors a year from the US and 20+ foreign countries, the museum features permanent and quarterly changing exhibits, in addition to a traveling exhibit which has been displayed in more than a dozen museums and libraries across Louisiana over the last two years. Since its inception, the museum foundation has placed Angola’s first cell house, known as the Red Hat, on the National Register in 2003, and recently donated a circa 1940s prison tower and a cell room to be used as key exhibits in the Smithsonian’s forthcoming National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The only prison museum in the country operated within an active prison, will soon expand to include a second building situated “behind the gates”. The Hospital Receiving Station opened in 1951 to process incoming prisoners to Angola, the only prison in the state at the time, will maintain many of the original functions. Maintaining the original functions of admissions processing, which featuring architectural exhibits, original Death Row and the original electric chair. The Receiving, as it was originally called, will also offer a Cafe’ for tour busses and visitors to the museum. This will be open to the public in late spring or summer of 2015!