Who would expect a pop-up museum in a former prison, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site in Philadelphia. In operation from 1829 to 1971 and home to famous criminals like Al Capone, the facility reopened in 1994 with guided tours and special events like a recreation of Bastille Day. Presented from March 23 through April 1, Eastern State’s first pop-up museum exhibits 120 rarely displayed hand-made weapons, many of them created by former prisoners, like a set of mini cutlery carved out of tiny bones stolen from a bowl of soup and a wallet made of interwoven cigarette packs. as well as a pile of inmate-written magazines. Other items include the original 8-pound key for the prison’s door, an old mugshot book and the prison’s death ledger from 1829 to 1935, which records more than 1,000 deaths. Surprisingly, murders and suicides didn’t top the list, the number one cause was actually tuberculosis. It goes well with a special hands-on tour where visitors are given keys to the cellblocks and retrace the steps of escape attempts across the bowels of the penitentiary complex. The idea of having a temporary museum is nothing new here, as there have been a number of interesting, critically acclaimed art exhibits over the years. A colony of cats once lived on the property when it closed, so artist Linda Brenner sculpted 39 cat sculptures “purposefully made of a material that slowly dissolves over time to represent the inevitable natural decay that faces all living things.” Artist Dayton Castleman installed hundreds of feet of red piping to symbolize the escape routes used by prisoners. Around the prison full of empty lock-ups, visitors can see how artists have transformed the spaces. One cell block is scattered with dioramas depicting various moments from the prison’s history, another has numerous televisions showing old prison films. This is definitely a creative way to readapt and bring life to an old building, especially for a historic site, where it is easy to become stagnant and boring. Even though I don’t think going to a prison is your typical school field trip experience. Why didn’t my teacher take me here? And can you imagine the permission slips?