The Prison Public Memory Project engages people from all walks of life in conversation, reflection and learning about the complex role of prisons in communities and society.
The Project works with individuals and organizations in communities with prisons across the United States to recover, preserve, interpret, present, and honor the memories of what took place in those institutions. We use public history, social practice art and new media technologies to integrate community knowledge with more traditional forms of historic preservation.
All prisons close at some point and the reasons for closure vary — buildings that are too old or outdated; changes in thinking about crime and punishment; a recession; a scandal. The United States is currently experiencing an unprecedented number of prison closures with several states closing multiple prisons. Through a variety of educational, creative and participatory activities, we build safe spaces where people from diverse backgrounds in communities facing a prison closure can connect with their pasts in imagining and planning for new futures.
Too often, when the gates are locked, workers retired or reassigned, and the prisoners transferred elsewhere, the stories, photos, and artifacts — the prison memories of people obscure, famous and infamous — are scattered and forever lost. We think this is a wasted opportunity.
We also provide consulting services to museums, historical societies, sites of conscience and libraries. We help groups to design and execute prison-related oral history projects and community-engagement programming. Examples of what we can help with include art installations, public art and performance projects, exhibitions, pop-up museums, and programming for special populations such as prisoners, former prisoners, current and retired correctional staff, and youth and seniors.
To learn and engage with others about our current work, we invite you to join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To listen to short clips from our oral history interviews, visit us on SoundCloud. We now also have a YouTube channel where you can watch our programming on video.
We welcome your comments and other contributions to the Project. There is a comment section below all of our stories. We review all comments and try not to compromise the privacy preferences and rights of individuals. We reserve the right to change the names of people to protect such preferences and rights. We are mindful of copyright issues so if you believe you are the rightful owner of an image used on our website, and wish us to take it down, please contact us with proof of ownership and we will remove the image.
We also encourage your constructive feedback and suggestions for improving the website and/or the Project as a whole. For that, please contact us using the form below.