Eastern State Penitentiary Launches New Spring Break Exhibit Focused on Sports and Recreation

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Eastern State Penitentiary exterior.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Eastern State Penitentiary, heralded as the world’s first true penitentiary, has reframed its reputation from what it was more than 180 years ago.

The historic site recently debuted a new spring break exhibit to attract individuals of all ages, writes David Matthau for WHYY.

According to Damon McCool, Eastern State Penitentiary’s senior specialist of research and public programming, the exhibit focuses on the rich and captivating history of sports and recreation behind bars.

“We’ll have sports-themed scavenger hunts, sports-themed tours, and panel discussions about boxing and chess in prison,” he said. 

Another component is a special pop-up museum highlighting the vibrant culture of sports at the prison.

It features pictures of incarcerated people playing football and basketball, and a photo of a race car built by incarcerated people that finished 8th place in the 1932 Indianapolis 500

Kerry Sautner, president and CEO of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, said the new exhibit connects with the organization’s mission of teaching visitors about the history of liberty and incarceration in the United States and Philadelphia through the lens of criminal justice reform. 

Eastern State Penitentiary was opened in 1829 as a prison before closing in 1971. It was abandoned for years until reopening to the public in 1994 as a museum experience. 

Read more about the new exhibit at Eastern State Penitentiary in WHYY.

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