Completed Projects


The Hospital Block’s Northern Extension

Status: Underway

Cellblock 3 has captivated visitors since the penitentiary reopened as a museum more than 20 years ago. Opportunities to step past the head gate ornamented with a red cross symbol and explore the full length of the Hospital Block have been rare. The few hardhat tours that Eastern State did offer filled quickly to capacity and affirmed visitors’ high interest in learning more about the healthcare delivered to thousands of inmates.


Considering Mass Incarceration: A 2016 exhibit to foster dialogue

Status: Complete

It is time to examine the history, effectiveness and fairness of the U.S. criminal justice system. Eastern State Penitentiary’s founders were committed to addressing the problems of prisons in their era. The historic site carries this spirit forward in two ways. First, contemporary criminal justice perspectives are now a substantial feature of our programs. Second, we have begun serving as a forum for dialogue about corrections.


Collections Conservation at Eastern State

Status: Underway

Locked safely away in Eastern State Penitentiary’s old darkroom, hundreds of artifacts rest in neatly organized drawers. Thousands of photographs fill museum storage boxes. Rare books line the shelves. Each object – from a weapon hidden by an Eastern State inmate to a photograph developed in the darkroom where it is stored today – is irreplaceable. It tells part of Eastern State’s story.


Conserving the Murals of the Catholic Chaplain’s Office

Status: Complete

Saving Unique Evidence of a Prisoner’s Faith

It took just over a year for a team of art conservators to reveal and secure the distinctive and fascinating murals. From June 2013 through August 2014, the team carefully removed the protective Japanese tissue paper and wax that had obscured the paintings for 18 years while preventing the total loss of the 23 paintings murals that line walls of the two rooms used by the Catholic chaplain. Several layers of crumbling wall paint and plaster below the murals made this project especially challenging.


The Operating Room of the Hospital Block

Status: Underway

A Critical Facility Upgrade that Saved Lives

A steeply sloped roofline sets the Operating Room apart from other sections of Cellblock 3, one of John Haviland’s original seven blocks of the penitentiary’s radial plan. This distinct addition once held clerestory windows that supplied steady northern light to the room below. Such light was critical to the work of the doctors and inmate nurses performing surgery on Eastern State's burgeoning and aging inmate population.


Death Row, The Last Cellblock Built

Status: Underway

Powerful Evidence of Changing Prison Policies in America

The nickname for Cellblock 15, “Death Row,” sends a chill up the spine. Here, several men waited out the last months of their lives.


The Catholic Chaplain’s Office Murals at Eastern State Penitentiary.

Status: Complete

The two-roomed Catholic Chaplain’s Office contains unique evidence of a prisoner’s faith –23 murals painted by inmate Lester Smith.


Eastern State Penitentiary's Kitchen and Bakery

Status: Complete


Prevention of the irrevocable loss of original building material by protecting vulnerable roofs from further damage.


Eastern State Penitentiary's Solarium Sunshine and Fresh Air Above the Hospital Block

Status: Complete

The small, sunny Solarium above Eastern State Penitentiary’s hospital block tells the story of a prison system struggling to keep a deadly disease under control.

Tuberculosis had plagued prisons for centuries. Known by a variety of names (“consumption,” “scrofula,” “phthisis,” “white plague”) and often misunderstood, the disease spreads easily in the dark, damp, crowded conditions so common to prisons worldwide. The disease could devastate a prison’s population.


Oral History – Recording the Memories of Eastern State Penitentiary’s Eyewitnesses

Status: Underway

There are a surprising number of “eyewitnesses” to Eastern State Penitentiary’s history, but time is running out to preserve their memories.

Interviews with former inmates, guards, and staff are essential to understanding what day-to-day life was like at the prison. We have recorded the stories of some of these eyewitnesses, but more than one hundred remain.

Historians call the process of recording personal memories “oral history.” An Eastern State oral history project in 1992 recorded interviews with 55 former inmates, officers and staff members.