“It combines a highly interactive, entertaining museum that appeals to all ages,” Chief Operating Officer Janine Vaccarello told Travel + Leisure. “Our goal is to educate the public on crimes that have happened in our nation’s history.”
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With a celebration planned for Thursday and a public opening on Friday, Alcatraz East is making its debut in the popular tourist town of Pigeon Forge at a difficult time for the surrounding area.
Recent wildfires in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge devastated local communities. The wildfires forced the evacuation of over 14,000 residents, destroyed several hundred buildings and caused the deaths of 13 people, according to ABC news.
The museum was untouched by the fire and did not need to delay its scheduled opening. Housed in a newly constructed building, the exterior combines architectural elements of San Francisco prison Alcatraz alongside details from the 1898 Tennessee State Prison, according to its website.
Alcatraz East will feature five main galleries, each with a different focus on the history of infamous American crimes and their prosecution. One must-see artifact is the “death mask” of John Dillinger, a plaster mold made of the gangster's face to prove his death to the public following a shoot-out with federal agents in 1934.
Other notable items include some of the personal effects of gangster Al Capone, as well as several whiskey stills used in the Prohibition era. The museum is also home to a collection of historical vehicles, including John Dillinger's car and the white Ford Bronco that O.J. Simpson used in his car chase with police in 1994.
The exhibits in the museum may also serve to encourage young children to pursue a career in law enforcement or criminal justice investigations, Vaccarello said, noting that an entire section of the museum is devoted to crime scene investigations.
General admission tickets are $24.95 for adults and $14.95 for children.