Written by Amy Hufnagel, Associate Director
launching a new 6-part series as part of a new series called Carceral Conversations. This series begins on
Thursday, October 12th at 12pm and is titled What I Brought Home and Left Behind: Formerly Incarcerated Individuals Share Memories and Personal Collections. It continues on the second Thursday of every month through
March 14th, 2024. Pre-registration is required, and audiences can choose to register for one or all of the
sessions. The program is free, underwritten by individual donors like you, and is appropriate for
ages 13yrs and up.
We all have things we collect and use to decorate our lives and places, things that ground us in our
histories or encourage us to aspire to something better, items critical to daily life. Let’s apply this lens
with a previously incarcerated individual of Sing Sing, as well as other corrections facilities, and learn how ephemera and objects take on value inside, and outside, a maximum-security correctional facility. The Sing Sing Prison museum is in development; and because we are in formation, we have ongoing conversations about collections and what and how to use objects to tell history and the contemporary cultural conditions.
Our team brings deep museum experience to the project, but little experience inside a corrections
facility. One might develop attachments to objects, or attachments to things missing or removed. We
decided that instead of wondering about the material culture and incarceration, we would ask
previously incarcerated individuals to share their stories and experiences with us hoping to build
understanding of the material world inside one’s cell.
In this series we also will hear from SSPM’s Collections Manager who will share an object from our
collection at the start of each conversation drawing links between the historic materials of Sing Sing
then and now. Each event will include 10 minutes on a current collection item, 30-minute presentation
by individuals sharing about their own belongings, and then robust audience engagement and Q&A.
This program is one of many strategies the Sing Sing Prison Museum is activating to expand the public’s
understanding of life inside the walls at Sing Sing and NYS corrections; it is designed to expand our
collective understanding of mass incarceration in NY/USA. Sharing a person’s personal collection carries
unbound significance and stories of everyday life. These objects and memories can be a way in and will
also bring forward larger systems that residents operate in like how to feel connected to outside
communities, feel one’s own humanity, gift economies, learning and reading, barter and alternative
goods and services, friendships, families, creative endeavors, communications, education, and religious
practices. We have so much to learn by listening! On Oct 12 we will be in conversation with Dorian Gray
Bess; Nov 9 with Tanya Pierce; December 14 with Mulumba Kazigo; and on January 11 with Carlos Ivan
Calaff. Each’s biography is compelling. Joining our newsletter is the best way to stay up to date on our work.
The Marshall Project wrote "Every American should visit a prison. Not the people who have already
experienced incarceration themselves, but those who have not. Prisons use billions of taxpayer dollars
every year, but our understandings are so limited.” We agree and so here are 6 programs, one per
month, to build understanding and awareness. Join us!
To learn more about the ideas behind this program continue reading, and register
for this program click here: