ReMix Gets Religion
By Andrew C. Herkovic (comment to author)
One may fairly say Stanford is ecumenical as all get-out. The Office for Religious Life, for example, administers Stanford Associated Religions, the directory of which boasts “some 40 religious organizations” (though I – skeptical as always - count only 34 or so), ranging (alphabetically) from “AHA!” to “Sikh.” Jane Stanford herself, for whom the completion of Memorial Church was a major concern, informed the Board of Trustees, "I firmly believe all services offered to God are acceptable, for all contain the theory of religion.” Mem Chu’s well-attended program of sacred music certainly draws an interfaith audience. The department of Religious Studies (not necessarily an index of campus spirituality) claims to be “home to a dozen regular faculty, with strengths especially in the study of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam,” to say nothing of an array of centers and programs focused on distinct religious domains.
The Libraries, characteristically, are catholic indeed in breadth of holdings, as one would expect. But it became particularly apparent to me recently that we are building a deep range of collections with religious foci. The beautiful exhibit currently in the Bing Wing of medieval manuscripts showcases one aspect, with the tell-tale title, “Scripting the Sacred.” Among these mostly Christian treasures, we hosted this month a reception to honor a new endowment, "The Fund for the Jack and Arden Lee Bahá'í Collection” to support future acquisition of Bahá'í Faith materials as well as a companion collection. That new and understudied subject will be administratively, if not spiritually, collocated with our rapidly growing collections of Islamic materials. Many readers will recall the series of major acquisitions (and much continuous growth) in Judaica/Hebraica collections: The Taube-Baron Collection of Jewish History and Culture in the 1990s, the Samson Copenhagen Collection early in this century, and The Eliasaf Robinson Tel Aviv Collection. On a smaller scale, we continue to build collections about other religions. We are confident these faiths and studies will co-exist nicely within our walls.
These collections support all sorts of inquiry: historical, sociological, political, theological, philosophical, artistic, paleographic, iconographic, and then some. I like to refer to the Munger Rotunda in the Bing Wing as the “Temple of Knowledge,” acknowledging both the character of the space and the Libraries’ dedication to the ideals of learning and study, and, particularly at the moment, a hint (if not the odor) of sanctity, however conceived.