March 24, 2017

‘Play along’ to get the most out of the Chapel on the Meadow exhibit

By Natalie Hoefer

Michael Redmond, an actor for the Indiana Historical Society (IHS) in Indianapolis, says that to get the most out of a visit to IHS’s recreated Catholic chapel built in 1943 by Italian prisoners of war interned at Camp Atterbury during World War II, it is best for visitors to “play along” with the actors.

“If they allow themselves to be in 1943 and take us as we are, that we are who we say we are, it will be a natural outpouring of information,” he says.

Here are questions visitors might consider asking the actors who portray Italian POWs, camp guards, camp director United States Army Lt. Col John Gammell and U.S. Army chaplain Conventual Franciscan Father Maurice Imhoff.

Questions for any character

  • What do you think of the conditions in the camp?
  • What is a typical day like in the prison camp for you?
  • What are the reactions of the local community to the camp?
  • What is the food like?
  • What do the prisoners do for recreation?
  • What do you know about the current pope?
  • Where have you served?
  • Why do you think the chapel is a good idea?
  • What kind of prayer material is available in the chapel?

Questions for POWs

  • Where did you fight in the war?
  • How long did it take to get here?
  • What did you think about coming to America?
  • Had you ever heard of Indiana?
  • Do you have any contacts with the world outside of the camp?
  • Why did you want to build the chapel?
  • How often is Mass celebrated in the camp?
  • What did you contribute to the chapel?
  • Who are the murals of, and why were they chosen?

Questions for guards

  • Has anyone tried to escape?
  • Do you ever take prisoners outside of the camp?
  • Questions for Lt. Col. John Gammell
  • Why did you let them build the chapel?
  • What other things have they asked for?
  • How does their treatment differ from POW camps in Europe?
  • Where did you get the material for the chapel?
  • Questions for Father Imhoff
  • What are some of the ways that you interact with the prisoners outside of Mass?
  • Why is the altar against the wall—how do you get behind it to celebrate Mass?
  • What language do you use to communicate with the prisoners?
  • How does the practice of the faith here differ from in Italy?


Related: Interactive exhibit brings to life special story of chapel built by Italian prisoners of war

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