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Partnership aims to digitize Civil War items

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

WEST TERRE HAUTE -- The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods are partnering with Wabash Valley Vision and Voices (WV3) to digitize more than 1,000 Civil War era items in an effort to preserve content of original documents and promote local renewed research as the nation prepares for the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.

Also partnering in the project are the Indiana State University's Cunningham Memorial Library, the Vigo County Public Library and the Vigo County Historical Society.

Group members plan to digitize field journals, letters, discharge papers, photographs, medals ribbons, canteens, uniforms and more. After the items are processed, they will be fully accessible for online research at www.visions.indstate.edu. By digitizing material, preservation of the often-fragile documents will be maintained.

During the Civil War, Indiana Gov. Oliver P. Morton asked the Sisters of Providence for medical assistance.

He asked that they provide administrative support at City Hospital, Indianapolis. The hospital had been turned over to the federal government for the care of soldiers.

Superior Gen. Mother Mary Cecilia Bailly made arrangements to assist the hospital and on May, 17, 1861, the sisters were in charge of all "domestic arrangements," such as washing, cooking and cleaning. Their services also included nursing care.

Sister Athanasius Fogarty, director of the hospital, was well-known as a sister nurse.

Risking infection from various war-time diseases such as typhoid, dysentery and measles, Sister Athanasius comforted and cared for the sick and dying soldiers. At the end of the war, she served as director of St. John Infirmary, a convalescent facility for soldiers that closed in 1871.

The Sisters of Providence are one of several congregations honored in a memorial called "The Nuns of the Battlefield," in Washington, D.C. The monument is located at the corner of Rhode Island Avenue and M Street.

The digitization of Civil War memorabilia is made possible by a Library Services and Technology Act Mini-Digitization Grant from the Indiana State Library.

For more information about the Sisters of Providence, visit www.SistersofProvidence.org.

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