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Thursday, February 26, 2015

HMML Celebrates its 50th anniversary at the 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies (Kalamazoo)

Father Oliver Kapsner, OSB, and his Austrian team at Seitenstetten Abbey in 1965.





HMML at Kalamazoo 2015

Listed below are the sessions sponsored (or co-sponsored) by the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at the 2015 International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Additional information on the Congress is on the Medieval Institute website:
http://wmich.edu/medieval/congress/index.html

Come help us celebrate 50 years of manuscript preservation!
 

Thursday
May 14
10:00-11:30

Session 46
Waldo Library
Classroom A

Digital Humanities Resources for the Study of Central Europe in the Middle Ages
(A Roundtable)
Sponsor: Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML); Special Collections and Rare Book Dept., Waldo Library, Western Michigan Univ.
Organizer: Susan M. B. Steuer, Western Michigan Univ.
Presider: Matthew Z. Heintzelman, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library
A roundtable discussion with Klaus M. Schmidt, Univ. Salzburg/Bowling Green State Univ.; Ramona Fritschi, Univ. de Fribourg/e-codices; Eric J. Johnson, Ohio State Univ. Libraries; and James R. Ginther, St. Louis Univ.

Thursday
May 14
1:30-3:00

Session 76
Schneider 2345

HMML at Fifty: Preserving Manuscripts and Providing Access for Five Decades
Sponsor: Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML)
Organizer: Matthew Z. Heintzelman, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library
Presider: Daniel K. Gullo, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library

Across Four Decades and Two Continents: HMML in Austria, Spain, Malta, Ethiopia, Germany, Portugal, England, Switzerland, and Sweden
Matthew Z. Heintzelman
HMML’s Past Decade and the Turn ad Orientem: Digitizing Threatened Manuscripts in the Middle East, Africa, and South India
Columba Stewart, OSB, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library
Applied Digital Humanities: Supporting Scholars and Students of Medieval Studies with vHMML and Reading Room
William Straub, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library

Thursday
May 14
3:30-5:00

Session 126
Schneider 2345

Slavery and Slave Trade in Medieval Mediterranean Society
Sponsor: Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML)
Organizer: Daniel K. Gullo, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library
Presider: Shannon N. Godlove, Columbus State Univ.
Slavery along the Christian-Andalusí Borderlands
Yasmine Beale-Rivaya, Texas State Univ.–San Marcos
On the Slaves’ Network of Communication in the Ottoman Crimea
Oleksander Halenko, Institute of History of Ukraine, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
Observations on Slavery and the Slave Trade in Late Medieval Malta
Daniel K. Gullo

Friday
May 15
9:00 p.m.

Bernhard 208
Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML)
Reception with open bar



Groundbreaking ceremony for the HMML building in April 1975 (40 years ago!).



Friday, January 2, 2015

50 Years Ago: A Cold House of God

40 years ago: Father Oliver looks on as the president of St. John's University
(Fr. Michael Blecker, OSB) and the director of HMML (Dr. Julian G. Plante)
break ground for the future home of HMML's microfilm collections.


Fifty years ago, Father Oliver Kapsner, OSB, was taking a short break from his travels and celebrating Christmas at the hospitable abbey of Einsiedeln in Switzerland. This interlude marked the break between the heavy activity of visiting several monasteries in a relatively short time and the actual start of microfilming (with the need for a staff and the camera set-ups).

In a letter to Father Colman Barry, OSB, dated January 2, 1965, he reported the following from the comfort accommodations at Einsiedeln:

"Christmas was nice, and I enjoyed some desired peace and rest. Outside it looks much like Minnesota, with two feet of snow on the ground and crisp winter air, quite in contrast to November-December weather in Austria which could offer only fog, drizzle, snow and slush. In fairness I should add that the grand hospitality experienced everywhere in Austria, by the guestmaster, abbot and monks, helped considerably to offset the persistent miserable weather. My room here at Einsiedeln is warm, being centrally heated, but the huge church is completely unheated, and, brother, it is a cold house of God. The monks say all the Divine Office there. In Austria the Office was always said in some small room in the monastery; the big church was used only for Mass and Vespers on Sunday.

"I will be here till Jan. 8 at least, but mail will be forwarded from here to my next address, in Austria, I hope. Incidentally, my command of German was a handy asset in Austria. Even my white hair, or what is left of them, helped to make a favorable impression."

------------------------------

Father Oliver at the Schottenstift (Vienna, Austria) in the 1960's.


 Next up: Putting the technology into place to start microfilming (January-March 1965).



Monday, December 29, 2014

50 Years Ago: "The Austrians are a most congenial and delightful people, everywhere"

The library at Melk Abbey, Austria.

Since his last letter in early November 1964, Father Oliver Kapsner, OSB, had been on the road throughout Austria, staying only a few days in each location. By December 23, however, he had returned to the Abbey of Einsiedeln in Switzerland, where he had planned to spend the Christmas season. During his time on the road, Saint John's University had (perhaps prematurely?) announced the new project--the Monastic Manuscript Microfilm Project--in the press:

"Dear Father Colman [Barry],
Upon returning here [Einsiedeln] yesterday from a six-week journey through Austria, I found your letter of November 9 waiting for me, along with the news release enclosures. I had made Einsiedeln a center for assembling mail, as I was constantly on the move, 2 or 3 days in each place.
Thanks to a highly successful trip, and surprisingly so, through Austria, the news release is now not disturbing, as it might have been, had the Austrian contact been a failure. All the 16 abbeys which I contacted have agreed through signed statements to join our microfilm project, this in spite of an earlier decision, in August, made a a meeting of the Austrian Abbots, not to join. Their decision was based on several objections sent in by librarians. Actually, I have not found a single Abbot who is opposed to the project. The difficulties always came from the librarian or archivist, four that I know of, all of whom I converted except one, at Admont. At Admont the Abbot (and his name is Coloman) through chapter action is overruling the librarian. Abbot Coloman also told me that if it had not been for my personal visit, the project would never have won approval in Austria. The weather was miserable throughout my Austrian journey, but hospitality was grand without exception. The Austrians are a most congenial and delightful people, everywhere."
As a holder of a master's degree in library sciences, I can only say: "those pesky librarians!" Already in this earliest stage of the project that would become the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, it was becoming clear how complex it would be to deal with other communities that have their own internal complexities. Through it all, Father Oliver would work tirelessly to assure everyone that the microfilming project offered benefits to all.

Fragment in the Saint John's Rare Books collection that was used as the backdrop for the announcement of the Monastic Manuscript Microfilm Project in the November 1964 Saint John's alumni magazine (the Off-Campus Record).


In his letter, Father Oliver summarizes the results of his trip: agreements with 10 Benedictine abbeys, 3 Cistercian abbeys and 3 abbeys of Augustinian canons. Now he must approach University Microfilms--the technology partner in the project--with a one-year proposal to move forward with the filming. He still has hopes for work in Switzerland (which was not to materialize for another 30 years, until after his death, unfortunately), but he is suspicious of suggestions that the project also use color photography for parts of the collections.

Father Oliver Kapsner, OSB (center), with his replacement, Father Urban Steiner, OSB,
at the Kodak offices in Vienna, Austria (1971).

He closes his letter:

"Frohe Weihnachten und ein Gesegnetes neues Jahr especially in your new important office [i.e., as president of Saint John's University]. Please pray for me too. My survey trip is finished now, but it has been rugged during the fall and winter months and constant change of place and meals. I have grown three years older during the past three months, and am that much closer to that final important resting place up on the hillside. But I am still alive and kicking, and now getting a needed rest here at Einsiedeln, where winter is just as in Minnesota. I will be staying here till Epiphany, after which I have suggested to University Microfilms to meet their representative in Vienna for important business, if agreeable to them."
Indeed, Father Oliver often complained in his letters about advanced age and the physical difficulties of his work, but then he lived another 27 years after starting this project! Perhaps his Austrian work kept him young?

In a follow-up letter from December 27, 1964, Father Oliver expands on his experience at Kremsmuenster Abbey, his feelings about color photography, and the situation at the Swiss abbeys. Also in that letter is a list of the Austrian monasteries that have agreed to join the project (in the order he listed them):
Vienna. Schottenstift
Klosterneuburg
Heiligenkreuz
Melk
Lilienfeld
Herzogenburg
Goettweig
Zwettl
Seitenstetten
Kremsmuenster
St. Florian
Lambach
Salzburg. St. Peter
Michaelbeuern
Admont
St. Paul in Carinthia (im Lavanttal)
He notes that, "These abbeys are rather conveniently located. The first 14 on the list lie on the 200-mile stretch from Vienna to Salzburg, 6 directly on the main railroad, the other 8 within 10 to 40 mi. off the main drag. Only Admont and St. Paul are out of the way. no wonder they used to say: Oesterreich, klosterreich."

Father Oliver with one of his microfilming team at Seitenstetten in 1965.

When we return to Father Oliver in January 2015, we will learn about the next phase of the project--getting the technology in place to start the actual microfilming.




Monday, December 1, 2014

50 Years Ago: "Sie werden in Kremsmuenster anfangen."


In a slightly later photo, Father Oliver Kapsner, OSB, types a manuscript
description on an inventory card to go on the microfilm.

We last visited with Father Oliver Kapsner, OSB, in Einsiedeln Abbey, Switzerland, where he was facing the prospect of an early return to the United States, with only very limited results to show for his travels to several European Benedictine monasteries. The hoped-for, bigger collections at Monte Cassino, Saint Gall and Einsiedeln refused his request to microfilm their precious manuscripts. He announced in a letter dated November 7, 1964, that he was about to embark on a five-week tour of Austrian monastic houses in hopes of finding some support there. So, exactly 50 years ago at this time (mid-November to mid-December 1964), Father Oliver was on the road. I have not yet found exact dates for his stops in Austria, so I don't have exact dates for the events described below. Suffice it to say that we are likely now (in December 2014) at the 50-year mark for the real "start" of the work in Austria! Here is Father Oliver's account, as he himself recounted the events. This account later appeared in two different publications (Scriptorium, vol. 25, 1986, and A Sense of Place, vol. 2):

1986-12 Scriptorium Volume 25 Christmas 090

 "My first stop in Austria was at Saint Peter’s Archabbey in Salzburg. The abbot was most gracious and felt favorably inclined towards our project but hinted that not all Austrian abbeys felt the same way. In fact, he said that two abbeys had telephoned him to inform me that I need not come there at all. But he signed a written agreement to indicate his willingness. Lambach Abbey was the next stop. There the abbot had just been deposed, and there was no librarian; hence, not much could be accomplished."

"The next stop was Kremsmünster Abbey. When I arrived, the porter immediately told me that the abbot wanted to speak to me on the phone, whereupon I was set for the next treat of bad news. But his first words on the phone were: Willkommen in Kremsmünster. Sie werden in Kremsmünster anfangen (“Welcome to Kremsmünster. You will begin your work here”). Brother, what a day that was for me, to hear such good news with my own ears. The abbot, Albert Bruckmayr, was newly elected four months previously. In Rome he had been a classmate of Fr. Vitus Bucher. He said that after all that Saint John’s had done for them during the hard years after World War II, it just would not be right to turn Saint John’s down now. Here I also learned that during the general chapter of the Austrian Benedictine Congregation in the summer of 1964, Abbot Baldwin’s offer was considered and was turned down. Ironically, the instigator for this unfavorable decision was the librarian from Kremsmünster, who had recently attended a convention in Munich where the director of the mighty Bayerische Staatsbibliothek had thundered against fulfilling requests coming from other countries to photograph whole portions of their manuscript collections. So the assembled Austrian abbots simply said that if the librarians don’t want it, that’s it. Ever so fortunately, the aged abbot president of the Austrian Congregation neglected to inform Abbot Baldwin of this decision. If he had done so, I would not have left for Europe."

"When Abbot Albert informed their librarian of his decision to let us begin our work at Kremsmünster, the librarian turned about completely and was totally cooperative. He even went out of his way to improve the reading of the agreement which I was presenting for signing, making a few minor modifications, and rendering the German more elegant. He then also duplicated enough copies for my use during the rest of my trip. Next, he asked why we planned to contact only Benedictine monasteries in Austria? Why not also the Austrian Cistercian, Augustinian, and Premonstratensian abbeys? I told him that I had no objection whatever if that would be arranged. So the next day he himself accompanied me to Sankt Florian, a famous Augustinian abbey thirty miles away that possessed an excellent manuscript collection. And a contract was signed at Sankt Florian."
Undated photo of a microfilm camera, probably taken at Saint John's University.

"The sky was beginning to clear before me. Three monasteries had signed the agreement. Now negotiations were considerably easier. First, Michaelbeuern signed, then Seitenstetten, then Melk, then Göttweig (the abbot of Göttweig was also the new administrator of Lambach, so he signed for Lambach). From Göttweig the Cistercian abbey of Zwettl lay to the north, and another Cistercian abbey, Lilienfeld, to the south, both of which signed. I met a Cistercian monk at Lambach who also encouraged me to visit the Cistercian abbeys in Austria, gave me their names, locations, and directions for reaching them conveniently on my visitation tour of the Benedictine abbeys. Then I was off to Schottenstift in Vienna, which signed the agreement. There too the librarian was most gracious to me. One day he accompanied me to Klosterneuburg of Augustinian canons ten miles north of Vienna, which signed the agreement."

"The following day he accompanied me to the Cistercian abbey of Heiligenkreuz, twenty miles south of Vienna, which signed. Only here the abbot, who had a reputation as a stickler, required that I obtain a letter for him from my abbot showing that I was duly authorized to do this work. The Austrian Benedictine abbots had all received such notification beforehand. From Vienna I went way down to the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Paul in Lavanttal in Kärnten. At first, the abbot hesitated but then did sign the agreement."

"Then came my last stop, Admont, where the librarian was vehemently opposed to our project. The kind abbot called a meeting of the Small Chapter to which I was invited to explain our offer. The meeting ended with the signing of the agreement."

"Now I could return to Einsiedeln on December 20 to relax a bit and to enjoy Christmas. What a Christmas gift I had in my bag: fifteen Austrian abbeys had signed the agreement: ten Benedictine, three Cistercian, two Augustinian. and the big break had come when least expected."

Bookplate in the Saint John's University bookplate collection, showing the interior of the
Kremsmuenster Abbey Library, from about the year 1899.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------




When we next return to hear more from Father Oliver, he will be back at Einsiedeln for a Christmas break! In the coming months I hope to return occasionally to his story with posts on the preparations to start the microfilming in January-March 1965 and the start-up of the microfilming in April 1965.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

50 years ago: "The Project has probably been rushed too much already"

Front page of the Minneapolis Star for October 29, 1964.



Things could hardly have looked worse.

Father Oliver Kapsner, OSB, had only been in Europe for about a week and a half, and nearly all of his news for his boss about the nascent Monastic Manuscript Microfilm Project was bad:
"Here is my first report, unfortunately not favorable. My experience at Monte Cassino is very disappointing, since after one week I am getting nowhere with the archivist (Tommaso Leccisotti). The two big obstacles are: no lay technician allowed in the monastery, and a long term (one year) in the archives cannot be allowed. A complete report is being sent to the Abbot. Needless to say, there should be no news release about the microfilm project at present, probably not for some time. The project has probably been rushed too much already." (letter to Father Colman Barry, OSB; October 12, 1964)

Monte Cassino Abbey (author's photograph, June 2010).
 
Father Oliver had arrived from the United States in the first week of October, 1964, with the high hopes of making photographic copies of Benedictine manuscripts at some of the most famous abbeys in Italy, Switzerland and Austria. As the month of October progressed, however, he enjoyed only smaller victories: arrangements with Benedictine abbeys in Cava, Subiaco, and Montevergine, where the manuscripts would be filmed by staff at each abbey, not through a team led by Father Oliver. Then came his trip to Switzerland, where he had received enthusiastic support from at least one abbot:
"The big disappointment is here at Einsiedeln. At a meeting in September the Swiss Benedictine librarians discussed our proposal and decided not to go along. This decision was not known to Abbot Tschudi of Einsiedeln when I interviewed him in Rome and found him favorably disposed. Ergo stat difficultas. It will probably take a year or two of diplomatic negotiating to iron out this knotty problem. At any rate, there is no chance whatever for me to start microfilming at Einsiedeln now. Outdoors it is snowing." (letter to Father Colman Barry, OSB; November 3, 1964)

Unfortunately for Father Oliver (and unbeknownst to him), back in Collegeville (Minnesota) the publicity department at Saint John's University had already announced the success of the microfilming project! The resulting acclaim pouring into the campus must have shaken him when he learned of it.

Fifty years ago, it appeared that his ambitious project to microfilm medieval manuscripts had ended even before it had begun.

April 1964 prospectus for the new abbey and university library.
(special thanks to Peggy Roske from Saint John's University Archives
for the use of this and other images from the library prospectuses!!
)

1964 had already been a busy year for the world, so the news from Saint John's seemed rather minor within its context. There was a major presidential election underway (Lyndon Johnson versus Barry Goldwater), U.S. warships had been fired upon in the Gulf of Tonkin, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed after a 75-day filibuster, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., won the Nobel Prize for Peace, and a certain English band had "invaded" the music scene in the United States (with five songs in the top five one week). Modernist architecture was also "invading" Collegeville.

The early 1960's were indeed a time of profound change on the campus at Saint John's University. In 1962 the new Abbey church with its famous bell banner had opened. Its architect, Marcel Breuer, had proposed several additional buildings on the campus, including a science center and--as the heart of the intellectual life--the university library. In late 1963 and early 1964, the focus of the abbot and university president had turned to promoting the construction of this library. No mere repository for books, the library had its own program expressed through four areas of special collections and cultural and intellectual exchange:

1. The Kritzeck Collection of manuscripts from famous rulers, popes and saints;
2. The Monastic Manuscript Microfilm Project (today's "HMML");
3. The Virgil Michel Liturgical Institute;
4. The Ecumenical Study Center (with offices in the new library).
 
 Prospectus for the new library from April 1964. Saint John's University Archives.

So it is that the new Monastic Microfilm Project had been announced as one part of this program, even before Father Oliver had been approached about leading it. Indeed, the earliest internal document I have been able to find from our early history is a note dated May 1963 from Paulin (Father Michael Blecker, OSB) to Father Colman Barry, OSB. The latter was soon to be named university president, and it is during his tenure that numerous initiatives were launched at Saint John's:  the microfilm project (today's "HMML"), the Ecumenical Institute (today's Collegeville Institute), and one of the first radio stations in Minnesota Public Radio.

A much later picture of Father Michael Blecker, OSB (third from right), visiting the offices of the National Endowment for the Humanities, with Julian G. Plante (HMML director) and Mrs. Joan Mondale (May 16, 1980).


As these brochures and Father Michael's letter show, however, the plan had been in discussion for a while before Father Oliver came on board.

In early 1964, Father Colman approached Oliver to lead the project, to which the latter replied:
"Next comes the question whether I am the right person to direct the project. I would like to think that I am. While it is true that my name is attached to some published works and that I know German, which should be useful for making contacts with the German and Austrian abbeys, it is also true that I am not at all a paleographer. Printed books have been my sole interest for some thirty years in library work. I would have to begin to study paleography in order to do justice to the cause at all, since this project will be concerned mainly, perhaps entirely, with older manuscripts." (Father Oliver to Father Colman, February 15, 1964)
Father Oliver also refers to some of the groundwork that had already been done by Father Colman: contacting a half-dozen abbeys in the autumn of 1963 to enlist their support:
“After all, we are also out to save what these abbeys have, for with the frightful destructive weapons in the hand of amoral man today, they could almost all be wiped out in a matter of minutes.” (ibid.)
Even the Abbot Primate in Rome, Benno Gut, had written a letter of support in December 1963:

“To the Right Reverend Abbots and the Reverend Father Librarians and Archivists.
 I would like to endorse with full approval the project to microfilm and preserve intact in one corpus of documents our monastic manuscripts. This commendable and farseeing undertaking will be of major service to the world of scholarship, and is at the same time in the best tradition of monastic research and joint cooperation of our monastic family. In the same way as the manuscripts of the Vatican Library were collected on microfilm copies some years ago, we now have the opportunity of making filmed copies of our manuscript heritage. ... It is a pleasure to commend and bless this important work which we are about to begin.” (Abbot Primate Benno Gut, Rome; December 1, 1963)
 As one might expect, creating such a large project with no structure in place required a lot of networking, letter writing and interviews.  As we saw above, some of this work already began in 1963, but much of it had to be done over the first several months of 1964. Respected scholars with requisite knowledge of the collections--like George Fowler, Giles Constable, Herbert Bloch, and Stephan Kuttner--were approached both for their suggestions and for their broader support. Charitable groups--in particular, the Knights of Columbus and the Hill Family Foundation--were approached for tentative funding. And, of course, technical support for microfilm cameras, supplies, developing, etc. had to be lined up (especially through University Microfilms, Inc.).


George Fowler giving a lecture at Saint John's University in the late 1960's or early 1970's.


The original conception of the project--as one of a set of programs for the new library--meant that it was rather limited in scope. The earliest discussions focused entirely on collections at Benedictine houses in Italy, Switzerland and Austria. It took time for HMML's open-ended preservation program to develop. Indeed, several suggestions from scholars became working principles for the microfilming project (and continue to guide our work). George Fowler recommended filming entire collections and not just selections, as well as working with other religious orders besides the Benedictines, such as the Franciscans, Dominicans, and Augustinians. Giles Constable urged the new project to include a provision for making copies of the microfilms for scholars, so that they could be used outside of Collegeville.


Library prospectus from 1963 or early 1964: one of the earliest mentions of the proposed
Monastic Microfilm Project (today's HMML). Saint John's University Archives.

Father Oliver arranged for technical support through meetings with staff from University Microfilms, and here he found one of his stronger allies in the task: Mr. Eugene Power. Such support was necessary to prepare for logistical support, as well as for preparing estimates of the cost. The initial impression of UMI was not promising, however:

“It is a commercial firm all right, not too sure whether they can be of help to us, you see--ice-cold American business tactics.” (Father Oliver to Father Colman; March 20, 1964)
But when Father Oliver finally met with Eugene Power, he found a man who fully supported the project and who went to great personal lengths to see that it got started when the time came.


Eugene Power and Father Oliver Kapsner, OSB, in Austria.

Meanwhile, Father Colman worked on the funding for the project. While funding came from numerous sources, the largest by far was a grant of $40,000 from the the Hill Family Foundation (today, the Northwest Area Foundation) of St. Paul, Minnesota. In a letter to the president of the foundation, Father Colman waxed enthusiastic:
“I want to tell you this morning also that Father Oliver Kapsner, who is directing the monastic microfilming project which the Hill Family Foundation has got underway with its wonderful grant, will be leaving for Europe this Friday. He will go directly to Monte Cassino Archabbey to get acquainted and to prepare the way for the arrival of Mr. Power, the director of University Microfilm, Incorporated in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who will then come to help in the microfilming process.” (Father Colman to Al Heckman; September 29, 1964)
Thus it was, that Father Oliver arrived in Italy with great expectations. However, after a month of traveling from abbey to abbey in Italy and Switzerland, his results were slight and his prospects dim. In a letter dated November 7, 1964 (almost exactly 50 years ago), to his fellow librarian, Father Benjamin Stein, OSB, he expressed his mixed feelings of frustration and guarded hope for ultimate success:
"Your letter sent to Monte Cassino was forwarded to Einsiedeln where it was handed to me an hour before I left there two days ago. The next five weeks I will be spending on the road, visiting ten Austrian abbeys in order to sound them out on our microfilm project. Then I will return to Einsiedeln (address over), about the middle of December, uncertain what the next move will be, perhaps back to the States, to resume the approach next year. Things move very slowly in these European monasteries. They have their firm traditions, feel thoroughly justified in their viewpoints and are much attached to them, hard and slow to change, if at all. The personal contacts which I am making had to be made some time before we can think of moving in to microfilm their manuscripts. The matter has to be considered first at a meeting of the monastic librarians and then submitted to a meeting of the abbots. Such red tape will obviously take some time. In the end we may succeed. I gather that the Swiss abbots are favorably inclined, whereas the librarians have expressed opposition to our plans. Videbimus. In Italy I had partial success (Subiaco, Cava, Montevergine), though Monte Cassino has to wait. We must take a long-range view of this vast undertaking." (Father Oliver to Father Benjamin Stein; November 7, 1964)
Saint Cloud Visitor (diocesan newspaper) from 1964

At this point, our record of Father Oliver's correspondence breaks off until December 23, 1964. The HMML files do not appear to harbor any signs of Father Oliver's work during the five weeks he was in Austria. Of course, this also corresponds exactly to the time--fifty years later--that I am reconstructing the "pre-history" of HMML's work.  The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library has traditionally dated its start to April 1965 and the beginning of actual microfilming in Kremsmünster Abbey in Austria. Yet, as we have seen, the actual start of work was preceded by at least two periods of our "pre-history":

  1. the years leading up to September 1964, when members of the Saint John's monastic community--such as Michael Blecker, OSB, Colman Barry, OSB, Benjamin Stein, OSB, Baldwin Dworschak, OSB, Oliver Kapsner, OSB, and many others--developed the contacts and lines of communication with other abbeys, funding sources, scholarly sources, and technical support; and,
  2. the months of October to December 1964 when Father Oliver tried to get the program off the ground in Italy, Switzerland and Austria.

Today's article has focused primarily on the first of these two periods, while wading into the early days of the second period--when the project's outlook seemed somewhat hopeless. Exactly fifty years ago this month, the whole microfilming project stood at a critical juncture:

Would this grand scheme even come into existence?

Or would it die an ignominious (and premature) death? 

It no doubt irked Father Oliver that the publicists back at Saint John's continued to announce the project's success!


The Off-Campus Record (alumni magazine for Saint John's University)
from November 1964. Saint John's University Archives.
 (Read the full article from the Off-Campus Record in Vivarium:
http://cdm.csbsju.edu/cdm/ref/collection/SJUArchives/id/995)


 * * *


In a future post, I will look at what was happening during those critical five weeks, fifty years ago!


Until then, peace!

Matt Heintzelman