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What’s on at the new National Justice Museum

What’s on at the new National Justice Museum? 

The new National Justice Museum (formerly the Galleries of Justice Museum) opens to the public on Saturday 1st April following a £1million Heritage Lottery Fund supported project.

Visitors will be able to discover stories of justice through time and explore items from the UK’s largest collection relating to law, justice, crime and punishment. They will also get the opportunity to meet characters from history, experience dramatic performances in the new ‘Theatre of Law’, see an exciting range of brand new exhibitions and take part in fun new activities, games and puzzles throughout the museum.

Here’s a snapshot of what is new to enjoy at the museum…


 The Theatre of Law

The trial of Daniel Diggle

Marking 200 years since Luddite Daniel Diggle was tried and executed at Nottingham’s Shire Hall on 2nd April 1817, the museum has created a special courtroom re-enactment which will be performed by their professional company of storytellers.

Diggle was arrested after attempting to shoot a man during a frame-breaking rampage. Visitors will hear the defense and prosecution for the case before deciding whether he paid a fair price for his crime.

Performances are available at selected times throughout the day and are included within the general admission charge.

Free exhibitions in the new Crime Gallery

The National Justice Museum’s brand new Crime Gallery will include an exciting new range of free family activities, fun interactives and new exhibitions exploring a range of topics relating to crime. It will explore questions such as What is crime and what causes people to commit crime? There will also be exhibitions focusing on protest, riots and terrorism, murder and robbery – where visitors will be able to see original forensic evidence relating to the Great Train Robbery.

Special exhibition until 16 Jun – Journey to Justice

The space will also feature a new exhibition exploring human rights movements and will celebrate those people who have stood up to make a change. The Journey to Justice Exhibition will feature stories from the US civil rights movement, as well as a range of local and regional stories relating to civil rights and social justice.

Stories include that of a Nottingham lace manufacturer who fought for the abolition of slavery and pioneered advances in workers’ rights; Nottingham’s involvement in gay rights activism in the 1960’s; and an exploration of struggles against poverty.

The exhibition will also highlight campaigns to kick out discrimination in sport and will highlight issues of inequality that still exist today. It will feature the story of Viv Anderson who was the first black footballer to represent England in a full senior match and was also an integral part of Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest team that went on to win two European Cups.

New exhibitions throughout the museum included within the general admission charge

As part of the Heritage Lottery Fund supported capital works, the old exhibitions featured at the Galleries of Justice Museum have been stripped out and replaced with brand new exhibitions ready for the launch of the National Justice Museum. Admission to the museum is valid throughout the entire day so visitors will be able to explore these new exhibitions at their leisure.

In the emotive Capital Punishment Exhibition visitors will find out about the kind of crimes that people were executed for and examine the story and key events that led to abolition of public executions in 1868 and of execution altogether in the 1990s. In addition, they will be able to look at various methods of execution, learn about key execution cases and key executioners from the late 19th century to mid 20th century, and find out which areas across the world still carry out capital punishment today.

A new Children and Young Offenders in Prison Exhibition will examine the history of children and young offenders in prison, from the 18th century to the current day. Visitors will learn about late 18th and early 19th century reformatory schools and industrial schools,1907 borstals, 1930’s approved schools, 1980’s young offenders institutes, ASBO’s, tagging and community sentences and the daily life for children and young offenders in prison today.

A new Punishments Exhibition will explore punishments from the medieval times right through to the Victorian period. Focusing on stories relating to items from the museum’s extensive collection, visitors will get an insight into different methods of punishment including prison, public humiliation and transportation. Objects included within the exhibition will include gibbet irons, the flogging block from Newgate Gaol and a scold’s bridle.

A new exhibition entitled Women in Prison will examine the experiences of women in prison from the 1700’s to the present day.

The new Prison Reform Exhibition will examine the work of prison reformers John Howard and Elizabeth Fry. It will look at the work they did and how some of these reforms are still in existence in prisons today. The exhibition will also look at charitable organisations that are campaigning to make changes to the prison service of today such as The Howard League and the Penal Trust.

Additional exhibitions will include The History of Nottingham Gaol, an exhibition of artwork by prisoners at Lowdham Grange Prison, and an Object in Focus Exhibition, which will change regularly throughout the year, and will take a closer look at an object from the museum’s extensive collection.

New games & activities throughout the museum for all the family

Also new for 2017, visitors will find a range of fun family packs, bustling with puzzles and activities, relating to exhibitions and locations at the museum. From jigsaws and detective games to true or false crime-related quizzes and maths games, there will be lots on offer for families. Visitors will also be able to have a go at Oakham picking – a form of hard labour given to prisoners in the past.

Throughout the school holidays there will also be additional free craft activities on offer for children and free fairytale mock trials where children will get the opportunity to put their favourite fairytale characters on trial!

Characters you may meet

Although the museum has moved away from traditional actor-led tours, visitors will still get the opportunity to meet a range of characters from history throughout the museum. Each character has a different story to tell based on their own experience of law, justice, crime and punishment. Characters you could meet include:

Elizabeth Fry was a 19th century prison reformer so famous she ended up on our £5 notes! Elizabeth Fry will tell visitors about the appalling conditions she witnessed in prisons across the country and the numerous changes she introduced to improve prisoners’ lives.

John Howard was a prison reformer. Visitors will hear about the conditions he witnessed in prisons across Britain and Europe, including at Nottingham Gaol, which he visited twice in the 1780’s.

Dr Massey was the medical officer at Nottingham Gaol in the 1860’s. He’ll tell visitors all the gruesome details about various diseases and conditions that he witnessed here when examining the prisoners.

Joanna Ledgwich was the great escapist! Visitors will hear how she managed to avoid transportation to Australia by escaping from Nottingham Gaol in 1831.

Valentine Marshall was one of Nottingham Gaol’s most well-known convicts. He will tell visitors about his role in the reform bill riots of 1831, as well as his experience in the prison and his transportation to Australia.

Find out more and book your ticket 


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