Museum News: Controversy at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment

The National Museum of Crime and Punishment is offering a Crimes of Passion tour – which involves binding couples together – in celebration of Valentine’s Day.  The organization Holla Back has called on NMCP to take domestic violence seriously.  It is not clear to me, from reading the wording of the petition, whether Holla Back is asking the museum to discontinue the event altogether, or to simply change how it is branded and advertised.

In response, NMCP posted on their website:

Domestic violence is not a crime of passion but a pervasive social illness that requires serious attention from communities across the country. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately one in four women will experience intimate partner violence at some point in their lives. About 3 women are killed every day in the U.S. by a current or former intimate partner.

Help is available for those suffering from abuse – physical, sexual, or emotional. If you are a victim, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224.

During this event, there will be information available regarding this subject. Resources are available by D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence at and the National Network to End Domestic Violence at

NMCP’s website also includes resources for donating to organizations that help victims, crime reporting, hotlines, what to do in the case of a missing person, and other ways to make a difference.

As I think back on memories of my many museum visits over the years, I realize that domestic violence is not a topic I’ve seen addressed much in museums, period.  And, while I have not attended nor plan to attend the Crimes of Passion tour, my guess is that this tour is not about domestic violence either, but rather, some of the museum’s most sensational stories of partners in romance and crime, and such.  (Really, who wants to pay $30 to hear stories about partners beating each other?  I hope I am not overestimating the goodness of the average person here.)

What would be a good exhibit on the topic of domestic violence, one that both informs and that is a call to action?  Art is the first thing that comes to mind for me: that might be a starting point for the museum world to deal with this taboo topic.


About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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2 Responses to Museum News: Controversy at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment

  1. museums365 says:

    See Lois Silverman’s The Social Work of Museums, page 78–she discusses sexual violence and activism against it in context of the “Women’s Action Museum of War and Peace” in Tokyo.

    A lot of what’s been done in the past has focused on sexual violence in times of war–but domestic violence, a (sadly) routine problem, takes a different note. I like the activist, historical-global-context model, but I also think that an exhibit promoting women’s independence (in art, in cultural symbols at a history museum) with a take-away (bookmark, pamphlet) suggesting steps the visitor can take at home and in his/her community might be the way to go.

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