Conservation of Thomas Merton Historic Treasures

Thomas Merton Historic Treasures

The Thomas Merton Center has contracted with McKay Lodge Art Conservation Laboratory, Inc. to conserve several of the most significant and treasured documents and artworks from his life. The Thomas Merton Center is the official repository of Merton’s artistic estate which includes over thirteen hundred photographs and nine hundred drawings in addition to his writing. The Center archives over fifty thousand Merton-related materials.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968), known in religion as Father Louis, was a Trappist monk of the Cistercian Abbey of Gethsemani near Bardstown, Kentucky.

Merton’s best-selling autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain (1948) has become a classic. His other works include The Sign of Jonas, No Man is an IslandNew Seeds of Contemplation, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, The Way of Chuang Tzu, and Mystics and Zen Masters. Since his death in Bangkok, Thailand, in December 1968, a number of his works have been published posthumously, including The Asian Journal, The Collected Poems, The Literary Essays, and five volumes selected from his letters. His Personal Journals (1939-1968), closed for twenty-five years after his death, have been published in seven volumes.

In 1967, one year before his death, Merton established the Merton Legacy Trust, naming Bellarmine College as the repository of his manuscripts, letters, journals, tapes, drawings, photographs, and memorabilia. Two years later, in October 1969, the College established the Thomas Merton Center, with the Collection as its focal point. The Center serves as a regional, national, and international resource for scholarship and inquiry on Merton and his works and also on the ideas he promoted: contemplative life, spirituality, ecumenism, East-West relations, personal and corporate inner work, peace, and social justice. The Merton Center regularly sponsors courses, lectures, retreats, seminars, Elderhostels, and exhibits for scholars, students, and the general public.

Among the treasures to be conserved are his handwritten vows, his commitment to a monastic life, several of his drawings and some by Owen Merton and a 1938 artwork by his friend at Columbia University, Ad Reinhardt.

In 2003, McKay Lodge Art Conservation Laboratory, Inc. conducted a collections preservation survey of the collection for The Thomas Merton Center.

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