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HPU library displays Nativity scenes donated by Lumans of Columbus

BROWNWOOD – December 13, 2018 – A collection of Nativity sets from around the world are on display at Howard Payne University’s Walker Memorial Library. The pieces were donated by Howard Payne University alumnus Merrill J. Luman and his wife of 68 years, Elaine. The couple resides in Columbus.

The collection includes approximately 75 Nativity sets from 30 different countries, including Brazil, China, former Czechoslovakia, Israel and South Africa. Each of the sets is unique in design, some having been made of gold or silver, while others were carved out of wood or molded from clay. Many of the Nativities were designed by well-known artists whose cultures can be seen reflected in their distinct depictions of the infant Jesus and His family.

“Every time we made a trip,” Mrs. Luman said, “we got at least one Nativity from every country. Every nation had its own take on the features of the Nativity.”

These diverse artistic interpretations of the story of Christ’s birth are a reflection of the broad nature of the good news of His coming. All the Nativities bear that in common. Each serves as a reminder of the miraculous birth of Christ and the eternal impact it has for all of humankind.

The Lumans’ love for Nativities originated from Mrs. Luman’s appreciation for the season of Christmas. They received their first Nativity in 1968 as a gift celebrating the birth of their youngest son. Their appreciation for Nativities paired well with their love of travel and a remarkable collection was born.

Mr. and Mrs. Luman expressed their desire to leave behind a lasting legacy through their collection.

“We wanted to make sure that, when we are gone, they are in a place where people can enjoy them as much as we have enjoyed them,” said Mr. Luman.

After approximately 50 years of collecting these Nativities, the Lumans admitted letting them go was bittersweet and some tears were shed.

“Merrill and I just love them because they hold so many memories for us,” Mrs. Luman said.

Even so, the Lumans are glad to know their treasured pieces will be seen by many at HPU.

“It’s the birth of our savior,” Mr. Luman said. “If this helps more people to know about the birth of Jesus, or just to think about the birth of our savior, that makes it very important to us.”

Pieces of the collection are already on display in cases located in HPU’s Walker Memorial Library. The Nativities can be viewed by the public from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The library will be closed for the Christmas holidays from December 19 until January 1. The library plans to display more of the Nativities on a year-round basis. The Lumans have expressed their desire to ultimately give their entire Nativity collection to HPU.


Cutline: A porcelain Nativity scene from China, based on the Japanese art of origami, is on display at the HPU library. The set is part of a collection donated by Merrill J. Luman ’50 and his wife, Elaine.