Built in 1829, Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world. The building opened as a museum in 1994, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks, empty guard towers, and audio-tour-traveling visitors. For more than a decade, the prison has had an active contemporary art program. The organization's preservation, interpretation, and public programs prompt visitors to engage in dialogue and deepen a national conversation about criminal justice.
Eastern State Penitentiary preserved the Catholic chaplain's office, a small building separate from the cellblocks, built in the 1880s. The office is the site of 23 murals painted in 1955 by inmate Lester Smith, who converted to Catholicism in prison. The work included preservation of the building exterior as well as the addition of temperature and humidity controls, electrical upgrades, and conservation of the murals themselves. This project allowed Eastern State to open the Catholic chaplain's office to visitors for the first time, and contributes significantly to the interpretation of spiritual and religious life at the prison.