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The Creations of Volunteer Harry Mushenheim

Featured in this year's At the Manger exhibit are 25 Nativities in settings created by retired University of Dayton math professor Harry Mushenheim. His wife, Cecilia Mushenheim, a volunteer and Marian Library faculty emerita, suggested upon his retirement that he become a volunteer. For the first few years, he worked alongside Canadian artist Michel Forest, observing techniques for designing and constructing beautiful settings. Over the years, Harry has designed more than 50 settings. Blue placards near Harry’s creations provide some of his commentary about the works.

Harry draws upon his artistic talents as well as his mathematical skills in the making of a setting. When the Marian Library receives a Nativity set and decides to create a setting to enhance its beauty, Harry meets with a team to discuss ideas, colors, materials and design. He often researches the culture from which the set originated and looks for ideas like traditional structures and patterns. He then sketches a design, measures it and creates the backdrop. Over the past 10 years, Harry has spent over 12,000 hours creating these settings.

In addition to spending three to four days a week in the Marian Library, Harry plays clarinet, swims almost daily and takes courses in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. He also is an avid reader and movie buff.

For additional information about At the Manger, visit

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