This exhibit, which ran from July 2012 through January 2016, is now closed. Learn about our new exhibit, Cannibals: Myth & Reality, which is open now.

Instruments of Torture is a gripping exhibition featuring implements cruelly engineered to inflict unbelievable pain and suffering. But these artifacts also have a deeper significance in helping us understand who we are as human beings. By exploring why torture occurs, even in today’s world, this exhibition compels us to ask “Are people the real instruments of torture?” In addition to the rare artifacts on tour from Italy’s Museo della Tortura, our partnerships with the International Legal Studies Program at California Western School of Law, the Joan Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, and Survivors of Torture, International help address the contemporary issues of torture.

In a post-9/11 world, torture has become a divisive topic. This exhibition goes beyond that debate to explore how we, as humans, respond to events and take action. It examines how, in specific situations, even those who deny they would ever torture another person, do exactly the opposite. Ultimately, the exhibition encourages visitors to contemplate their own human frailty, the conditions that lead to torture, and how they can be upstanders – people who stand up for others – in a world that has too many bystanders. Although torture has persisted over the centuries, we hope one day the only place you hear about torture will be at a museum.

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Please Note: Children under age 13 are not admitted to this exhibit without their parent or legal guardian.