NYCHS photo images taken at the Cayuga Museum exhibit reception April 11, 2003.


Click for 8 web page transcription of 16-page exhibit brochure.
Below is the Cayuga Museum press release announcing the Auburn Prison exhibit. The 10 photo images appearing on this page were taken by NYCHS at the exhibit opening reception. An 8-web page transcription by NYCHS of the museum's 16-page printed brochure for the exhibit can be accessed by clicking on the exhibit logo (left).

Both Sides of the Wall:
Auburn and Its Prison

April 12 thru Aug. 31, 2003
at Cayuga Museum



          The history of the state prison in Auburn and the relationship between the prison and the city will be the dual focuses of a major new exhibit at the Cayuga Museum.  Both Sides of the Wall:  Auburn and Its Prison will open with a reception on Friday night, April 11 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Exhibit visitor views modern cell replica.

          The prison and the city have been tied together from the day the cornerstone of the prison wall was laid in 1816.    The State’s effort to make the prison self-supporting, with forced contract labor, gave rise to several of what later came to be major industries in Auburn – shoe-making, woolen mills, tool making, and more.  The prison remains the largest employer in the county.

Display includes canes keepers used to "tap out" commands to inmates.

Auburn Prison was a model for prisons throughout the world. Auburn was the first prison to contain individual cells, the first to institute the widely-imitated “Auburn System,” the first to execute a prisoner by electrocution.  “The story of Auburn Prison is of national importance,” said Museum Director Eileen McHugh.  “In many ways, the prison has made Auburn what it is today, but it also helped make the American prison system what it is today.” 

Inmate-made chest.

          Both Sides of the Wall will include the bell that hung from the administration building for more than 100 years, more than 75 historic photographs, products of the prison shops including an Asa Munger clock made in 1835 and a chest made in 1872.  Articles of restraint such as leg shackles, handcuffs and billy clubs, and contemporary weapons confiscated from inmates illustrate the difficulty of controlling large numbers of men by force.  A full-size replica of a contemporary cell will let visitors experience the space in which inmates live.   


Both Sides of the Wall, Auburn and Its Prison will be open at the Cayuga Museum April 12 through August 31, 2003. The Museum is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends noon to 5 p.m.

Inmate-made clock.

Public programs surrounding the prison exhibit will take place throughout the exhibit’s four-month run.


On Wednesday, May 28, Peter Wisbey, Executive Director of the Seward House Museum, will speak about the many visitors who came to Auburn to tour the prison. [He will be the speaker at the next meeting of the Cayuga County Historical Society. The meeting starts 7 p.m. in St. Peter & John's Episcopal Church Parish Hall, 2nd Floor, 169 Genesee Street. His talk, to start at 7:30 p.m. is entitled: Early Visitors to Auburn Prison from Early Accounts]


The Mayor’s Social Justice Task Force will be sponsoring a series of public dialogues around contemporary prison issues.


The Cayuga Museum is hosting an inmate art show to run concurrently with Both Sides of the Wall from May 18 through June 29. 


For more information: Eileen McHugh, Director, (315) 253-8051

NYCHS photo images taken at the Cayuga Museum exhibit reception April 11, 2003.
To May 18 - June 29 Inmate Art Show Announcement.
To 8-web page transcription of exhibit brochure.
To Auburn&Osborne menu page.
To Cayuga Museum web page.
To John Miskell's The Long Watch of Copper John.
To John Miskell's The Bell: Auburn Prison.
To John N. Miskell's
'Executions in
Auburn Prison:
To John N. Miskell's
'Why Auburn?
Prison & Community
To John N. Miskell's
'Offering Hope:
Auburn Seminary,
Prison Connection'
To John N. Miskell's
'Medal of Honor
Rite at Auburn
Inmate Grave'