Grand Opening

THE HARD CELL Beaumont has the Texas Energy Museum and Kingsville has the King Ranch Museum. Likewise, Huntsville promotes its industry—incarceration—with the Texas Prison Museum. Since 1989 museum visitors have surveyed exhibits dedicated to prison art, contraband, and capital punishment, gawking at the decommissioned electric chair Old Sparky along the way. Freshly released inmates have been known to tour the place, nodding at the museum's part-time attendant, a former Walls Unit warden, before catching the first bus out of town. November 13 through 16 Huntsville commemorates the collection's new 10,000-square-foot home with activities that might be worthy of parody if they weren't already so darn weird. Events include an inmate arts-and-crafts sale, book signings by writers of prison history, a dramatic reenactment of the 1934 Eastham Raid that Bonnie and Clyde staged to free a friend, and storytelling by historians and retired prison staff members. Organizers admit that a salute to the town's penitentiary may appear callous to outsiders, but in Huntsville, they explain, prison is just a fact of life. (See Elsewhere.)

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