Louisiana State Penitentiary donates guard tower to new Smithsonian museum in D.C.

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POSTED: Monday, July 8, 2013 - 5:00pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - 9:08pm

One historical piece of Louisiana will soon be represented in Washington D.C. The more than 100 year-old guard tower from Louisiana State Penitentiary's Camp H is being donating to a new Smithsonian Museum.

Warden Burl Cain has seen the Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola, turn from one of America's most brutal prisons to a productive correctional community.
In 38 years as warden, Cain said donating a piece from his facility is the highlight of his career.

"We jumped up and down for joy that we could even think that something from Angola would be in the Smithsonian. I mean this is the Smithsonian!," Cain exclaimed. "This is the ultimate museum in the world to me, and to have something from here to go that museum is incredible for Louisiana."

Cain said Angola holds so much history. Even though, it represents a hard time in Louisiana's history, it also represents progress.

"This represents our oppressive past that we don't have today, We've totally changed to prison to where we are not oppressive, so we have to keep these things to remember how we were so I don't have to go back there again," Cain said."

Carlos Bustamante is the project manager for the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. Bustamante said this guard tower will not just be a part of the museum, but one of its centerpieces.

"This guard tower is going to be used in our history exhibition about segregation to discuss the complex history of the incarceration of African-Americans through America's history," Bustamante said. "It will travel to the museum in the fall along with an 80-foot long railcar that we are also going to have in the exhibition. They will be craned into the construction site prior to the completion of the building."

"It will forever be used, as long as this tower's at the Smithsonian then this camp is remembered, and this prison's remembered, but most importantly, Louisiana's remembered," Cain said. "I can't wait to go to the Smithsonian to see something from Angola way up in Washington D.C., so it's a great day for us.}

Bustamante said construction crews will be at Angola tomorrow to start deconstructing the tower. The tower will be broken down into two parts so they can transport it to a holding facility. The projected completion date for the museum is November 2015.   

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