$1 million fund established at HMML in honor of Father Columba Stewart, OSB

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September 12, 2008

The Rev. Columba Stewart, OSB, was presented with a gift totaling $825,000 at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) Annual Millennium Club event Sept. 10. The gift is part of a $1 million fund that has been established to support HMML’s manuscript preservation initiatives over the next five years.

Contributed by HMML friends, the surprise gift paid tribute to Stewart and his successful five years as HMML’s executive director. In June 2009, Father Columba will leave his current post at HMML to spend more time teaching and writing.

As executive director, Stewart has seen HMML’s preservation fieldwork increase from two sites to 22 digital studios located in nine countries. He has earned acceptance and trust from many Eastern Christian communities, who know him both as a modern Benedictine monk and as a recognized expert on the history of early Christianity and monasticism.  His leadership has made HMML widely recognized as the world’s premier resource for photographic preservation of manuscripts.

Under Stewart’s direction, HMML has become the largest resource for the study of Eastern Christian manuscripts in the world, followed  only by the Vatican Library in Rome and the British Library in London.

“These funds will play a critical role in completing the preservation of these diverse, threatened and difficult-to-access manuscript collections,” Stewart said after receiving his gift. “They will be secure for future generations and available for researchers today. Given the rise of intolerance in our world today, surely the study of these manuscripts, with their variety of perspectives on the meaning of human life, can deepen our understanding of the experience of others and enrich our appreciation of our own history.”

In addition to developing HMML’s extensive manuscript digitization projects in the various terrains of eastern Christianity, Stewart has directed the expansion of HMML’s mission to include care and exhibition for The Saint John’s Bible and Saint John’s University’s special collections of rare books and art. He also continues to write extensively on monastic topics at both popular and scholarly levels.

“Although he will no longer serve as executive director, HMML will continue to rely upon Father Columba’s unique combination of talents, skills, and credentials to help preserve manuscripts in countries where violence and threats make them more vulnerable than ever to destruction, theft and black market sale,” said Tom Barrett, chairman of the HMML Board of Overseers. “The board is grateful for his leadership and to all the friends who have supported HMML’s mission over the years.” 

HMML was founded 40 years ago in response to the devastating loss of manuscripts and books during two world wars. It is the only institution in the world exclusively dedicated to the photographic preservation and study of manuscripts, particularly in locations where war, theft or physical conditions pose a threat. Since its inception, HMML has built the world’s largest collection of manuscript images, having photographed almost 100,000 manuscripts totaling more than 30 million pages.

For more information about the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, the HMML Millennium Club, or to contribute to the fund in honor of Stewart, please contact HMML executive director of development, Erin Lonergan, 320-363-2095 or elonergan@csbsju.edu.