Museums are donated many kinds of things, but this one is a bit unusual. The new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington will receive a 20-foot-tall prison guard tower from the Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola, for its collection.
On Monday the tower will be taken apart and transported to a holding facility in Kentucky while the museum is under construction. The museum, which is slated to open officially December 2015, will receive other donations before opening, like a Jim Crow segregated railroad car. This will all occur before the roof is even built.
Angola was erected on a 19th-century plantation and currently is home to more than 5,000 men, most African-American and serving life sentences without parole. Spencer Crew, a guest curator at the NMAAHC, explained that the tower will be used to start dialogue around race: “The idea is to use it as an object to help talk about the ongoing prison camps and war camps and incarceration some years after slavery,” said Crew.