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IHS Tells Largely Forgotten Tale of POWs on Hoosier Home Front

Feb. 16, 2017

Indianapolis—In one of the Indiana Historical Society's (IHS's) most moving You Are There exhibits to date, visitors will be introduced to Italian prisoners of war in the chapel they built at Camp Atterbury—their home away from home.

The exhibit, You Are There 1943: Italian POWs at Atterbury, debuts March 4, 2017, and runs through August 11, 2018, at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center in downtown Indianapolis.

In 1943, approximately 3,000 Italian POWs were held at Indiana's Camp Atterbury. Today, this largely forgotten story from the Hoosier home front during World War II lives on as part of the camp's history and through the descendents of many POWs.

"This story surprised me," said Angela Wolfgram, IHS exhibits researcher. "Kindness is a big part of it. Interactions were friendly, unlike what we picture for a POW camp. Also, I was struck by how much the Italians appreciated their time at Atterbury. It wasn't summer camp, but they enjoyed the food, the interactions with central Indiana residents, recreation time, and even religious freedom. I think this is a hopeful story, and we need hopeful stories."

Guests to You Are There 1943: Italian POWs at Atterbury will step into a recreation of the still-existing "Chapel in the Meadow" as actors portraying POWs are completing paintings on the walls and marbleizing the altar. In addition, visitors may interact with actors portraying American soldiers, including Chaplain Maurice Imhoff and Lt. Col. John Gammell, commanding officer of the internment camp.

Outside the chapel portion of the exhibit, guests will discover the history and present-day use of Camp Atterbury through text and photographs. They will uncover the meaning of Italian iconography and see a slideshow presenting the various aspects of the POW camp experience.

You Are There 1943: Italian POWs at Atterbury is presented by Jane Fortune and Franciscan Health, with support from the Italian Heritage Society of Indiana.

For more information about You Are There 1943: Italian POWs at Atterbury or other IHS exhibits and resources, call (317) 232-1882 or visit www.indianahistory.org.

About the Indiana Historical Society

Since 1830, the Indiana Historical Society has been Indiana’s Storyteller™, connecting people to the past by collecting, preserving and sharing the state’s history. A private, nonprofit membership organization, IHS maintains the nation’s premier research library and archives on the history of Indiana and the Old Northwest and presents a unique set of visitor experiences called the Indiana Experience. IHS also provides support and assistance to local museums and historical groups; publishes books and periodicals; sponsors teacher workshops; produces and hosts art exhibitions, museum theater and outside performance groups; and provides youth, adult and family programs. IHS is a Smithsonian Affiliate and a member of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.

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