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Conserving and digitizing a saint’s journal

An image of part of the first page of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin’s journal.

One of the most cherished pieces of the Congregation’s history was conserved and digitized with the assistance of the Indiana Historical Society’s Historic Document Preservation Program and the Preservation Imaging Lab. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin’s journal, which is written in French, began with her arrival on Oct. 22, 1840. The journal ends shortly before her death on May 14, 1856.

Sister Mary Ryan, Congregation archivist, notes that the journal pages have been digitized into individual .tif files. Additionally, the six signatures (referring to the binding of the material) of the journal have been saved as .pdf files. Those files are now available below in a low-resolution version. The files are also available on the Wabash Valley Visions & Voices Web site, where the Sisters of Providence are partners.

According to the July/August 2008 issue of the Indiana Historical Society’s publication, INPerspective, “After receiving permission to separate the pages by clipping what remained of the stitches, each sheet was gently humidified to relax the center crease and then gently flattened. Some pages have been mended with an early conservation technique that uses undyed sheer silk gauze and wheat starch paste to cover fragile areas, which allows the script to be read while holding the torn areas together.”

Sister Mary worked closely with Ramona Duncan-Huse, senior director of the Indiana Historical Society Conservation. In an e-mail correspondence to Sister Mary, Ramona wrote about this project. “We have finished the Guerin diary; attached is the first page! We are very excited about the research these digital images will allow. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to work with this very special artifact — special not only to the Sisters of Providence, but to the world.”

The journal, in .pdf format, is truly available to the world by clicking on the links below:

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The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, are a congregation of Roman Catholic women religious (sisters) who minister throughout the United States and Taiwan. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence in 1840. The congregation has a mission of being God's Providence in the world by committing to performing works of love, mercy and justice in service among God's people.

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