Cell Block 7 Prison Museum

The Ella Sharp Museum has partnered with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) and will be opening a prison museum in Cell Block 7 of the Cooper Street Correctional Facility in the summer of 2014.

“We are so thankful and excited for the opportunity to partner with the MDOC and share this part of Jackson and Michigan’s history,” Ella Sharp Museum Executive Director Amy Reimann said.

The museum will be dedicated to the history and process of the MDOC at a unique site located within an active working prison system. Cell Block 7 is an active representation of current life as an incarcerated inmate at what was once the largest walled-prison in the world. Visitors will receive an overview of operations and exhibits followed by a self-guided tour exploring all areas of the cell block. The museum will also feature a gift shop and art gallery. Exhibits will be static and explore life inside prison from many different perspectives.

“The State Prison of Southern Michigan is a rich and important part of the city of Jackson’s history. It is the vision of the Michigan Department of Corrections to have the 7 Block historical site preserved and utilized in a manner that best serves the Jackson community,” Michigan Department of Corrections Director Dan Heyns said.

The Ella Sharp Museum’s mission is to promote the understanding and appreciation of art and history through exceptional exhibits, interpretation of historical buildings and engaging educational programs. The Ella is an American Alliance of Museums accredited institution since 1978, one of only 25 in the State of Michigan.

“The Ella Sharp Museum has tremendous reputation and a long and impressive history of serving the Jackson community,” Heyns said. “We thought partnering with them on an expanded museum and tour proposal would enhance the benefit of the 7 Block site to more citizens of Jackson and be the best possible use for the facility going forward. We are thrilled to be a part of this unique partnership.”

The Ella Sharp Museum is issuing a call for artifacts for potential inclusion in exhibits at a prison museum. The museum invited former inmates, employees, and all those connected with the facility to consider donating or loaning their materials. Items such as letters, journals, artwork, photographs, artifacts, and oral histories relating to the southern Michigan facility,

specifically Cell Block 7, would be welcome. Those who wish to contribute are asked to provide information and a brief description of the items to Judy Horn, Director of Collections & Exhibits, at judyh@ellasharp.org or for more information contact the Ella Sharp Museum at 517-787-2320. To stay up to date on museum happenings send your email to maraw@ellasharp.org. More details about opening events to follow.

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