Infirmary: An Untold Story

An Introduction to the Project


For the previously mentioned digital history course project, I am working on creating both a digital component to my thesis and a stand-alone project discussing the Wood County Infirmary. An infirmary is a county run institution for those that could not care for themselves for various reasons. The project focuses on the residents living at the infirmary, trends in population, why residents ended up at the infirmary, and infirmaries themselves. Thus far, data has been gathered on the infirmary residents from their applications for relief. Applications for relief were how county residents applied for aid when it was needed. The applications have information such as name, aid received, race, age, sex, township of residence, birthplace, and notes about their stay at the infirmary, if admitted. To better understand the project, it is important to understand how the infirmary aid worked. To receive aid, an individual went to their township trustee and explained they needed aid. The trustee then filled out and sent an application for relief to the Infirmary Board of Directors. They would send the superintendent of the infirmary out to investigate the case to determine if the individuals were to receive aid or not. The applicant was then either given outdoor relief (money for medicine, food, clothing, or fuel paid directly to the store, doctor etc), indoor relief (taken to the infirmary for care), or no aid. My project focuses on the individuals that received indoor relief. To receive aid, an individual/family had to have lived in Wood County for 12 consecutive months self-sufficiently. Meaning, they did not receive aid from another source. After the 12 months, they were considered a legal resident of the county.

Currently, I am working on a timeline of the infirmary history, county history, state, and national history in regards to events that would impact the infirmary and thus the residents. This will help put trends in residents into perspective I believe. Future endeavors include using ArcGIS to map residents’ birthplace and township of residence, graphs and charts of resident demographics, and word clouds/text analysis of legislation verse applications for relief rhetoric.

Just a note to touch on my feelings about the project:

I am rather excited about this project, as it is a topic I have been interested in for many years. The infirmary I am looking at is currently a museum and that what sparked my interest in remembering infirmaries, even though they are often forgotten. I am a bit apprehensive as this is my first foray into the digital history realm and I do not know quite what to expect. Technology can be fickle at times and we do not always see eye to eye. I hope to learn a lot about the tools that can be used to do digital research and create such a digital project. However, the technology aspect of the project does seem to be the most intimidating aspect for me.

More to be written soon as the project progresses.