The Old Prison of Ushuaia isn’t just a museum. It’s four walls hold the history of Ushuaia, as its inmates literally built the city streets and public buildings. It had Tierra del Fuego’s first printing press, telephone, and electricity, too.
For the most part, its inmates were a surly bunch, made up of serial offenders that Buenos Aires police wanted to ship out and never see again. There were also political prisoners, sent to the end of the world where their ideals would be ignored. But rumors also claim that Carlos Gardel – the most prominent voice in Tango – also spent a stretch in this bleak outpost.
Today, the Old Prison building houses several different museums, but two wings of the building are dedicated to the incarcerated history. One wing has been left as is, so it takes visitors into the past by showing both the living conditions and cramped quarters that found 800 prisoners living in 360 cells. The second wing of the prison museum houses restored furniture, mannequins, and stories of the inmates’ pasts.
The old prison building also houses the Maritime and Antarctic Museums, and the Maritime Art Gallery.