SJU Alcuin Library & EAI

aireal photo of Saint John's University
Saint John's University Branding

The Emmaus Archive Institute exists to promote the legacy of Bernard Huijbers and Huub Oosterhuis by creating a library for preservation and a laboratory for innovation. This library, or archive, will physically exist within the Alcuin Library on the campus of St. John’s University (SJU) in Collegeville, Minnesota near St. Cloud.

SJU was founded in 1857 for male students by the Benedictine monks of Saint John’s Abbey, who emigrated from Bavaria, Germany. In 1955 SJU began offering joint evening classes with a sister school, the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minnesota, which opened in 1913. The relationship expanded in 1961, and since then the two institutions have shared a common academic program. Men and women attend coed classes taught by a joint faculty.

SJU Alcuin Library Exterior

The library was named for Alcuin of York (also known as Ealhwine, Alhwin and Alchoin), an English scholar, clergyman, poet and teacher from York, Northumbria, born c. 735 C.E. and died 804 C.E. It was designed by Marcel Breuer, a Hungarian born modernist architect known for his Brutalist style designs. Construction of the library began in 1964 and its dedication was on May 7th, 1966. The building was designed to accommodate changing technology by having large spaces that could adapt to the needs of the times and by having ample electrical outlets for increased use of technology. Since its original construction, the library has undergone multiple interior rearrangements and in June 2015, after almost a decade of planning, construction for a complete renovation of Alcuin Library began. Before and during construction extreme care was taken to safely house the University archives as well as the rare books collection and the archival collections of the Hill Monastic and Manuscript Library. Finally, the room that had previously functioned as an auditorium was repurposed to serve as the new permanent home of the original seven volumes of the Saint John’s Bible. This space also includes information about, and some of the tools and materials that were used in, the creation of the Bible. The renovated library includes a Learning Commons building attached to the existing library which includes additional classroom space, study spaces, a new computer lab and a sound studio. The renovated library and Learning Commons opened in Fall 2017.

SJU Alcuin Library Interior

The Emmaus archive will be joining another venerable archives at the Alcuin Library. The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML), a non-profit organization sponsored by Saint John’s Abbey and University has been housed there since 1965. HMML’s mission is to identify, digitally photograph, catalog, and archive the contents of manuscripts belonging to threatened communities and to make the copies available to users around the world through online catalogs. Since its founding in 1965, HMML has partnered with 540 libraries and archives to photograph more than 140,000 manuscript books dating from the ancient to early modern eras, totaling some 40 million handwritten pages. HMML serves three constituencies: communities or libraries with endangered manuscript collections, scholars who research manuscript and textual history, and the non-specialist general public interested in the transmission of human knowledge and artistic creativity in manuscript form.

SJU Alcuin Library Interior

Once funded, we hope the works, writings, and theories of composer Bernard Huijbers and poet Huub Oosterhuis will be preserved in their own critical archival library at the Alcuin. Beyond that, through the efforts of Tony Barr, musician, composer, musicologist, scholar, and longtime collaborator of Bernard Huijbers, we hope to maintain and make the materials available for study. With Tony Barr serving as Principal Archivist, working with doctoral students and interested visitors, we hope to create a laboratory for innovation in liturgical music—a home providing living works to be heard and sung by generations to come.

Russell Jenkins is Secretary of the EAI Board

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