Smithsonian exhibit in Louisiana, Mississippi

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 17, 2014 at 10:17 am •  Published: May 17, 2014
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ANGOLA, La. (AP) — Big photographs of Louisiana State Penitentiary inmates working in the prison's vegetable fields are on display with a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution in Angola Museum, just outside the gates to the 18,000-acre prison grounds.

"This is a working farm. Everybody has a job," said museum director Marsha Lindsey. Inmates paid up to 20 cents an hour raise about 4 million pounds of vegetables, which are processed and frozen to feed inmates at Angola and four nearby state prisons.

"The Way We Worked" — part of the Smithsonian's Museum on Main Street program — opens Saturday in Angola and 270 miles away in Tunica, Mississippi. Identical exhibits also are being shown in Rhode Island, Michigan and California.

Each museum, city hall, library or other facility that gets the exhibit must add its own displays and programs.

Tunica's include two movies about farming, one from 1938 and one from the present; a photo of a barber shop in an evacuee camp during the Great Flood of 1927, captioned "Even when times get tough, Delta folks keep going;" and a hands-on exhibit of old-style business equipment and modern equivalents, called "Your Grampa's Office."

"We've rounded up vintage business machines from all over our county area," museum director Richard Taylor said. "You match up the old calculator that has the handle on the side — you push buttons down and pull up the handle — with the modern counterpart, a pocket-sized calculator about the size of a credit card. ... There's a big old file cabinet; we label it as a hard drive."

There's also a 1990s "bag phone" — a hefty cellular phone with transceiver and battery so large that it came in its own shoulder bag.

"For kids it's still old," Taylor said.

Angola's display will become a permanent part of the museum, said Genny Nadler-Thomas, the museum's program and development director. It includes images of modern-day inmates harvesting and planting crops and working with horses and historic photographs of inmates working in fields of cotton or sugar cane.

The museum also will hold a "Farming on the Farm" tour and symposium May 30, featuring warden Burl Cain — a former state agriculture secretary — and agricultural extension service agent Andre Brock.

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