Museum History Exhibits

Artifacts, panels, maps, and sculptures honoring 91 years of Prison History

The Lucy Burns Museum tells the story of the DC Correctional Facility at Lorton from its opening in 1910 to its closure in 2001. Beginning as a Progressive Era reform experiment the Workhouse was designed to rehabilitate and reform prisoners by providing an environment with fresh air, good food, honest work, and fair treatment.   In the 1920’s a Reformatory was built and the Workhouse was rebuilt from brick made by prisoners and fired in kilns on the banks of the Occoquan River. In the 1930’s a maximum security penitentiary was also built by prisoners from brick they, themselves had made. In 1960 a large Youth Center was added to the the facilities on this 3,200 acre plot.

The Workhouse has supported a museum space since opening in 2008, in Building W-9 on campus.  The artifacts and exhibits were created and displayed by an all-volunteer group of docents, former prison employees, and our community.  The museum displayed photos and objects from every period of the prison’s existence. Between 2016-2019, the Workhouse embarked on a significant renovation project, transforming Building W-2 to become the Lucy Burns Museum, with comprehensive and professional exhibits including the decade of research by docents and artifacts from the museum’s collection along with artifacts graciously loaned to the museum from the City of Washington, DC and the County of Fairfax.  The Lucy Burns Museum will open in 2020, the year marking the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote in the U.S.

A portion of the Lucy Burns Museum is devoted to the suffragists who were imprisoned in the Occoquan Women’s Workhouse for picketing the Wilson White House in support of the right for women to vote in national elections. Here in 1917, 72 women, members of the National Womans Party, were imprisoned without due process of law, for supporting their beliefs.

Items of special interest include the ledger in which the names of the suffragists are written along with the crime for which they were arrested, prisoner art, shivs and shanks collected by correctional officers in dormitory searches, farming and industrial equipment made and used by prisoners, to name a few.

Information is also provided about the Cold War missile site located on the property.


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