Jonathan Ullman has been executive director of the Mob Museum, aka The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, since it opened on Valentine’s Day in 2012. He previously was with the National Soccer Hall of Fame, which was in New York, and the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey.
Review-Journal: Many people were surprised by the museum’s recent announcement of a $6.5 million expansion project. Do you think that’s overly ambitious? How did you come to that figure?
Ullman: This project recognizes that we need some broader changes and to address some other areas. Organized crime that happens on a global basis continues to evolve every day. Describing where that exists, where the various crime syndicates are, how the law-enforcement agencies pursue those criminals — those are all extremely compelling topics for people and are really relevant to people’s daily lives.
Plans include a firearms-training simulator and dining. With so many other places to shoot and eat, why are these important to the museum?
The average visit is more than two hours. As for (the firearms simulator) it will not be like any other places where you shoot. This is giving people a deeper understanding of the training law-enforcement officers receive, and situations (they) find themselves in where they have to make decisions about whether to use deadly force. Few topics are more complex and current than law-enforcement officers’ use of deadly force. People will develop a visceral understanding of the unpredictable and dangerous situations officers find themselves in.
What surprises people most when they come to the museum?
Part of it is the juxtaposition of this amazing historic, beautiful old building with these very current and high-tech exhibits. People are always astounded by things like the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Wall.(They can) hear what law enforcement was able to listen into and use as evidence in prosecuting criminals. It’s just a really unique blend of experiences.
You used to be at the National Soccer Hall of Fame and the Liberty Science Center, and now are at the Mob Museum. Any connection between those three?
Besides New York and New Jersey? Soccer has certainly not been without scandal, and it has kind of complex hidden global networks. And on the science side — more seriously — one of the things we’re most excited about is we’ll be able to get into STEM topics with things like the crime lab, DNA analysis and ballistics testing. A lot of science is used to investigate crime.
Do you get better tables now that you’re at the mob museum?
I don’t think I’ve properly wielded that potential. (They should) bring a table out for me special in the front, like they do in the movies.