Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Crime Museum Asked to Leave by Landlord

The National Museum of Crime & Punishment (aka the Crime Museum) is a private museum located in Penn Quarter. After being open for seven+ years, it will close on September 30, 2015. In various news reports, museum staff indicated that the landlord of the space has asked them to leave. The museum is seeking a new space in the DC area. Just reading between the lines here; it appears as if they weren't attracting enough customers or generally weren't creating enough sales to the liking of the landlord; i.e. they can charge more to potential tenants with higher revenues and profits.

The Crime Museum was always an awkward fit in Penn Quarter. It is located across the street from from the established Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museums, as well as only two blocks away from the very popular International Spy Museum. The block the Crime Museum is on is very eclectic with neighbors such as an international law firm, a high volume Mexican restaurant, a swanky hotel, a steakhouse, a popular basement bar, a cupcakery, and a coffee shop. So, there was a lot of competition for just getting noticed, let alone getting folks to come inside and spend money. Even with bright yellow signage for its "Cop Shop" store, one could easily miss the museum save for the police themed music often pumped through speakers at the door or the stanchions made of handcuffs funneling you inside.

A few years ago, the museum made some seemingly obvious and avoidable missteps in marketing and promotion. In 2011, they created a Valentine's Day promotion featuring domestic violence crimes, but wordsmithed the promotions into a rather morbid activity for couples to experience while bound together in the museum. 

And in a 2011 two-fer, the museum was called out for sending staff, many young black men, out into the streets of DC to pass out promo materials while dressed in orange, mock-prison inmate jumpsuits. 

In 2013, another set-back: the show America's Most Wanted was cancelled. It had been filmed on set inside the Crime Museum. The show's host, John Walsh, was a partner in the museum's creation and opening.

No word yet on where the museum may end up, or what will replace it in the 25,000+ square feet space at 575 7th St NW. I'll post more news as it comes.