Next, The Death Penalty Wing

It's another gorgeous day in San Francisco, but forget Fisherman's Wharf and Ghirardelli Square. The town has a new tourist attraction-just over the Golden Gate and just this side of macabre. Bring the whole family, especially if your last name is Addams. Welcome to the museum at San Quentin State Prison.

In penal lore, the massive concrete fortress on the shores of the bay ranks among the nation's most notorious. Since 1852, San Quentin has housed many of California's worst criminals-from the scoundrels of the gold rush to Robert Alton Harris, executed last spring in the gas chamber (the state's first condemned inmate to die in 25 years). Now the prison is showing off some of its history. The nonprofit museum occupies the home of a former warden, just inside the electronic gates, several hundred feet from death row and the other cells. Minimum-security inmates did most of the renovation. The collection totals about 100,000 pieces, many donated by families of current and former San Quentin employees.

Exhibits show how confinement has changed during the prison's 140 years. There is a 30-pound ball and chain, and thumb cuffs from the last century, as well as submarine nets and American flags made by prisoners in factories during World War II. There is a reproduction of a cell from 1913, a contraband homemade tattooing instrument and all sorts of armaments used by corrections officers over the years.

But the big draw-next to the gift shop-is off to a corner. It's the Death Penalty Wing, with replicas of the current gas chamber and the old gallows (outlawed after 1942). Old newspaper headlines recreate the heyday of American executions. There are the original blueprints of the chamber, provided by Eaton Metal Products of Denver, along with a pharmacist's scale used to weigh the lethal sodium cyanide pellets. Movie buffs will recognize the black blindfold used by murderess Barbara Graham during her 1955 execution, later immortalized by Susan Hayward in "I Want to Live." Alongside the gallows is a box of miniature nooses tagged with inmate ID numbers; these were the personal collection of an employee who participated in 150 executions between 1924 and 1954. Executioners' logs record a morning's work with comments like "Successful" or "Very Successful." "This is the stuff people will come to see," says Richard Nelson, an associate warden who worked for nine years to create the museum. "Our hope is that they will learn about the rest of the prison's history." And maybe buy a T shirt, too.