Mary and the Holy Family are in the spotlight at the University of Dayton Libraries again this year. More than 2,500 visitors are expected: they will come to see the 300 or so crèches on display between now and January 26, 2014. The crèches are part of the Marian Library’s collection of more than 2,500 crèches and nativity-related ornaments.
The theme this year, At the Manger: And Animals Were There, will delight and intrigue adults and children as they view world nativity traditions at the “manger.” Creative children’s activities, light refreshments, live entertainment by the Dayton International Festival Singers and a Stable Store provide something for everyone.
The idea for the crèche displays started when the late Constance Breen saw two crèche scenes on the top shelf of a bookcase at the Marian Library. She asked about them, talked with Father Johan Roten, and suggested to several friends that they might see about displaying them. Ginny Whalen and other close friends agreed, and an annual tradition began.
Since 1995, the collection has grown to include thousands of nativities from around the world that reflect a variety of customs and traditions. The crèches are expressions of how Christianity has shaped the culture and faith of people all over the world; 96 cultures and countries are represented.
From 15 to 19 volunteers donate time each week during the year, repairing, organizing and building new settings for the collection. The volunteers donate more than 5,500 hours each year! The cost to preserve, create and repair the crèches and present the collection is from $10,000 to $15,000 each year. Donations to the Crèche Collection are welcome.
The crèches are shown on three floors of UD’s Roesch library and change each year. Crèches are on loan to offices at the University and venues in other cities and states, mostly in the East, during the Christmas season. The displays can be seen during University Library hours.
Meanwhile, Africa Meets Asia, an exhibit at Gallery St. John, at 4400 Shakertown Road in Beavercreek, features more than 25 crèches from UD’s Marian Library collection. This exhibit tells the Christmas story from the viewpoint of various African cultures. The clothes, animals and participants are presented in African settings; the various woods, fabrics and decorations complete the African theme. The show runs to January 5 with special holiday hours. Call the gallery at 937-320-5405 for more information.