Research methods and experiences of a prison museum thesis

J. Rodgers

University of Auckland,

This paper presents the research methods, pitfalls, successes, and strange occurrences of gathering data at three international prison museums: Fremantle Prison (Western Australia), Robben Island Museum (Cape Town, South Africa), and Eastern State Penitentiary (PA, USA). This presentation will cover three broad areas. First, the personal experiences of the researcher, the logistics involved with research at these historic sites, and comparisons with the experiences of other scholars who have undertaken similar fieldwork. Following this is a discussion on the use of pre- and post-exposure surveys to visitors, an evaluation of its application, and the difference in results of online or in-person administration. Finally, the involvement of prison museum management and their assistance in the data collection process will be highlighted, as well as the issues associated with interviewing staff members. This paper offers some areas that could be utilised by future researchers to streamline their own work, as well as methods that could be further improved upon.


James Rodgers is a PhD student at The University of Auckland. The main focus of his research is investigating the role of international prison museums in educating, entertaining, and shaping public attitudes regarding prisons, and the cultural and penal heritage of these sites. This primary focus is informed by a smaller subset of questions: what motivates tourists to visit prison museums, which stories or experiences are presented to tourists when they tour the museum, and the role that prison museums play as a tourism destination within their communities.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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