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Villanova University Partners with Philadelphia's Independence Seaport Museum to Digitize Historic Commodore John Barry Papers

May 13 event will recognize Falvey Memorial Library’s digitization of historic Commodore John Barry Papers, making a once obscure collection of documents easily accessible on the internet

May 5, 2009

VILLANOVA, Pa., May 5, 2009 – Villanova University has partnered with Philadelphia’s Independence Seaport Museum to digitize historic documents related to the life of American Revolutionary War hero Commodore John Barry. Through this partnership, Villanova’s Falvey Memorial Library agreed to digitize a collection which chronicles the legacy of the “Father of the United States Navy.” Until now, these documents were accessible only by a scheduled visit to Independence Seaport Museum.

The 1723-1875 collection includes correspondence, journals and papers related to Barry’s career in the Continental Navy and the business and personal ventures of 60 members of the Hayes, Keen, Austin, and Somers families of Philadelphia and South Jersey. The papers offer a captivating glimpse into the life of the man who was the first to capture a British war vessel on the high seas, quelled three mutinies, captured over 20 ships and fought the last naval battle of the Revolution aboard the frigate Alliance in 1783.

Representatives from Villanova University and the Independence Seaport Museum join together May 13 at Falvey Memorial Library, on the campus of Villanova University, to celebrate the complete digitization of these historic documents. The event includes an introduction of the project and demonstration of the newly digital documents. Villanova University President, the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., will speak at the 1 p.m. event, along with Lori Dillard Rech, President of Independence Seaport Museum. There will also be a roundtable discussion about the business, political, and personal papers of Barry and his extended family.

The limited access to these important papers and the desire to preserve historic documents for future generations brought forth a need to digitize the collection. Upon learning of the Museum’s needs, Villanova proposed a partnership to digitize the Barry-Hayes Papers and establish online access for the collection on both organizations’ Web sites. To view these historic documents, or for more information about Villanova’s digital library, please visit: The papers also can be accessed from the Seaport’s library page at

"I am especially excited about this project because of the way it brings together a number of elements that are really significant to Villanova, including the University's longstanding relationship with the Navy, our connection with cultural institutions in the Greater Philadelphia area, and our role in promoting and sustaining scholarship in the digital era," said Joe Lucia, Director of Falvey Memorial Library.

“This digitization project is the culmination of an initiative that began several years ago with fundraising to take the first step of preserving the Barry-Hayes collection on microfilm,” said Matt Herbison, Director of the J. Welles Henderson Archives and Library at Independence Seaport Museum. “We are delighted that through our partnership with Villanova, there is now unlimited access to this entire collection.”

Commodore John Barry is commemorated in the Philadelphia area with a statue outside Independence Hall and his name on a bridge spanning the Delaware River. He also is the namesake of John Barry Hall, a Villanova University building that houses the institution’s Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). Providing the United States with Navy and Marine Corps Officers for over 50 years, Villanova’s NROTC has produced 22 Navy Admirals and Marine Corps Generals.

Falvey Memorial Library began its overall digitization initiative in 2006. The goal of the project is to scan and mount digitized images of printed materials and manuscripts to build online collections of historical documents and rare books and make them freely available on the Internet via Villanova University’s digital library.

Since then, the Library’s digitization projects have included a partnership with the American Catholic Historical Society, headquartered in Philadelphia. Among the documents being digitized as part of that project are works about the 1844 Nativist riots in Philadelphia and the Mollie Maguires, miners in the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania who organized into a union during the 1860s and 1870s. Also being digitized are the only known copies of the 19th-Century Catholic magazine, Redpath’s Illustrated Weekly, and the oldest continuously published Catholic periodical, Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia are included in the collection.

Villanova University, a co-educational Roman Catholic institution, was founded by the Order of Saint Augustine in 1842. A premier institution of higher education, Villanova provides a comprehensive education rooted in the liberal arts; a shared commitment to the Augustinian ideals of truth, unity and love; and a community dedicated to service to others. A wide variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered through the University’s four colleges: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering and the College of Nursing, as well as the Villanova School of Law. With a total enrollment that surpasses 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students, Villanova is the oldest and largest Catholic university in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Independence Seaport Museum on the Delaware River in Philadelphia’s historic district is one of the nation’s premiere maritime museums and one of Philadelphia top tourism attractions. The Seaport showcases the region’s maritime heritage with two floors of exhibit galleries, a working wooden boat workshop, the National Historic Landmark 1892 Cruiser Olympia and WWII Submarine Becuna, a Concert Hall, children’s educational programs and adult tour programs, special events, a research archive and library, and a gift shop.