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Closing the Rock: The Anniversary of Alcatraz’s Last Day

March 18, 2023-August 2024


During its three decades of operation, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was considered the most secure prison in America. Originally built in the 1850s as a military fort and prison, it was thought to be nearly escape-proof, though that did not stop prisoners from trying. “The Rock” held infamous criminals like Al Capone, “Machine Gun” Kelly, and James “Whitey” Bulger. On average, Alcatraz held less than one percent of the American federal prison population at any given time and though the Rock was said to have the best food and warmest showers of any federal prison, life on the island was monotonous and harsh.

In 1962, the Federal Bureau of Prisons announced that Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary would be closing due to the deterioration of the structure and the exponential operating costs. A year later, on March 21, 1963, the final inmates were escorted off the island. This exhibit will explore life on the island, its infamous inmates, and how the reign of the maximum security, minimum privilege prison came to a close.

Highlighted Objects

  • Al Capone’s Rosary
  • P.A.T.H. Alcatraz Artwork
  • Alcatraz Guard Handcuffs
  • The Golden Rock:
    Alcatraz National Park Celebrates Fifty

    Alcatraz Island opened its doors fifty years ago as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, operated by the National Park Service. The former maximum-security prison closed in 1963 due to increasingly high maintenance and operation costs. The property was left vacant until November of 1969 when the island was occupied by Native American protesters for over 19 months, and eventually, the National Park Service purchased the island in 1972. It officially opened to the public on November 20, 1973, and remains a prominent site in America’s infamous history.

    Celebrate this landmark’s history with us!
    Don’t miss our Alcatraz-related stops:

    • Alcatraz Objects on Display
      • Alcatraz Riot Gun Case
      • Letter from inmate Robert “Birdman” Stroud
      • Alcatraz Prison Postcard
      • Al Capone’s Alcatraz Rosary
    • Alcatraz trivia throughout the museum
    • “Closing the Rock,” a temporary exhibit about Alcatraz’s last day as a prison


    Alcatraz East hosts temporary exhibits, in partnership with outside organizations, related to crime and law enforcement topics.

    If your organization is interested in proposing a temporary exhibit, please email .

    Learn More About Our Other Temporary Exhibits.

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