By John McDevitt

By John McDevitt

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s been long abandoned, but Eastern State Penitentiary in Fairmount, now a historic site, was an active prison for more than 140 years.

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An 11-day exhibit is telling the unique stories of the inmates through sports and leisure artifacts.

Eastern State Penitentiary opened in 1829 and continued to house inmates until 1971.

Sports and leisure activities were very much a part of prison life over the years, so the Penitentiary wanted to do something different and show visitors that side. So it turned a climate controlled staff conference room into a pop-up museum featuring things like inmate poetry, paintings, ceramics and a rare movie from the late 1920s showing sporting events.

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“They played games, they write letters. Since the begriming they were always allowed to exercise a couple of times a day. Exercise was a very important social fabric of the prison. Inmates joined teams, they played football, baseball, bocce ball,” said Annie Anderson, Sr. Specialist for Research and Public Programming.

There are even photographs from the 1930s, showcasing the musical talents of inmates and their live KYW radio broadcasts from inside the prison walls.

“KYW would come in and record the prisoners and then broadcast their music live over the air and we know that prisoners got fan mail and a lot of curious listeners tuned in and loved what they heard. There were a lot of talented people who lived behind the walls here,” said Anderson.

Homemade weapons made on prisoners’ leisure time are also on display.

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