Frazier History Museum

Thomas Merton: A Familiar Stranger

January 31, 2016 - May 29, 2016

Thomas Merton: A Familiar Stranger,  gives visitors a glimpse into Merton’s life through photographs taken of Merton by renowned photographers, as well as photos taken by Merton himself. Visitors are immersed in artifacts belonging to Merton; from his beloved typewriter to his clothing that has never before been on display, to correspondence between Merton and Coretta Scott King about the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. 

Visitors will also walk through a gallery of photographs form the Courier-Journal Archives taken during the Civil Rights movement in 1967 and 1968. These chilling photographs are paired with excerpts written by Merton about unity and nonviolence. Guests are able to come out of this thought provoking exhibit with an understanding of Merton’s passions and views on social and religious unity.

On January 30th, 2016, 430 people attended the opening of the exhibit Thomas Merton: A Familiar Stranger.  Guests enjoyed a beautiful musical performance by Louisville Vocal Project and Bellarmine Schola Cantorum, and thoughtful words by Bellarmine President Dr. Joseph J. McGowan, The Most Reverend Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, and Honorable Greg Fischer, Mayor of Louisville.  A toast was made in honor of Thomas Merton, one of America’s most widely read spiritual writers. Afterwards, a cake was cut to commemorate Merton’s 101st birthday.

The thought-provoking exhibit was opened to a sometimes teary-eyed audience inspired by powerful prose, moving pictures and contemplative speakers.  The diverse group of speakers shared passages from Merton’s writings, relating how those writings had an impact on their lives. These moving readings took place in the theater that lies in the center of the exhibit, where guests are able to read about his 27 years as a Trappist Monk in Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey, as well as the progressive thoughts that were formed there about spirituality, civil rights, nonviolence, and unity among people and religions. 

For more information on exhibit related events, please click here.

The exhibition is made possible with the support of