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At the Manger

At the Manger: World Nativity Traditions Suspended for 2020

Since 1997, the University of Dayton’s Marian Library has presented a selection of its expansive collection of 3,600 Nativity scenes from more than 100 countries, celebrating how people around the world ponder and picture the birth of Christ through many different cultural lenses.

Due to impacts of COVID-19, there will not be a curated, in-person At the Manger exhibit for Christmas 2020. In addition, the Marian Library will not be able to lend Nativity sets on campus or in the community in 2020. We know these decisions will sadden many people who have made this exhibit an annual tradition and for whom it is a central part of Advent and Christmas in Dayton. It saddens us, too.

The reasons for the decision to suspend this exhibit are manifold and informed by the following:
  • Planning for At the Manger begins months ahead of time. Multiple personnel who would have been involved in summer exhibit planning were furloughed or had their jobs eliminated. We do not know when the University Libraries will again be fully staffed.
  • Due to remote work, we have only occasional access to the collections at this time.
  • The Marian Library’s volunteer program in the art collection is currently suspended. Volunteers are essential to planning and implementing this exhibit. Volunteers serve as docents for most exhibit tours and coordinate the lending of Nativities across the University of Dayton campus.
  • Guidelines around social distancing are difficult to follow and enforce in Marian Library exhibit spaces. We are doing our best to follow guidance from the state, the county and the University of Dayton. We certainly hope that it will be safe again for large numbers of people to congregate in the near future, but at this time, safe distancing is difficult or impossible with small spaces connected by narrow hallways and accessible by elevators. 
  • The University of Dayton is restricting spending at this time of uncertainty. Even a relatively small exhibit requires financial expenditures, especially when moving fragile art objects such as Nativity sets. 

The decision to suspend loans of Nativity sets will also disappoint many of our colleagues and neighbors. For many on the UD campus, the arrival of an office Nativity set is the unofficial start of the Christmas season, and this collection is an important reminder of the Catholic and Marianist identity of UD. 

At this time, the Marian Library is primarily supporting the instruction and research needs of the UD community. We offer many collection materials online including 160 digitized Nativity sets; we are developing new resources in response to the current pandemic; and we plan to offer some fun, interactive options to celebrate Christmas in 2020. 

Please check this page for the latest information on when the Marian Library will once again be able to host exhibits that are open to the public for self-guided tours.


Marian Library

300 College Park
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 1390