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John M. Kelly Library | Archival and Manuscript Collection

The Henri J.M. Nouwen Archives & Research Collection

Henri Nouwen [1983]

Henri Nouwen, 1976 | Photographer: M.E. Kronstein

The Archives consists of more than 50 linear metres of material created and accumulated by Henri Nouwen in his lifetime.

The Archives includes drafts of manuscripts, more than 16 000 incoming letters, over 200 sound and video recordings, lecture notes and handouts, administrative files from L'Arche Daybreak, business correspondence and other material related to Nouwen's publishers, photographs, research material collected by Nouwen on Anton T. Boisen, Seward Hiltner, Vincent Van Gogh, Thomas Merton, and the Circus, as well as a complete set of his published books (including translations), and a comprehensive collection of articles published by Nouwen between 1957 and 1996.

There are 15 series in the Henri Nouwen archives:

  1. Manuscripts
  2. General files
  3. Calendar files
  4. Personal records
  5. Publisher files
  6. Financial files
  7. Teaching materials
  8. Nouwen’s education records and study notes
  9. Published works
  10. Video recordings
  11. Sound recordings
  12. Collected materials
  13. Administrative resources
  14. Ephemera and artifacts
  15. Photographs

Research Collection

The Research Collection includes materials relating to Henri Nouwen which were collected by the Archivist and other individuals with an interest in maintaining Nouwen’s legacy.

There are nine series in the Research Collection:

  1. Material by Nouwen
  2. Material about Nouwen
  3. Materials mentioning Nouwen
  4. Reviews
  5. Newsletters
  6. Nouwen events, promotional material, programs and souvenirs
  7. Publisher materials (ie. catalogues and advertisements featuring books by Nouwen)
  8. Reference files
  9. Audiovisual material

Finding Guide and Publications

Digital Exhibits

Henri Nouwen Society

The Nouwen Archive Letter Project

Included in the Research Collection are those letters and materials collected as a result of the Nouwen Archive Letter Project. Together, the Archives and Research Collection serve to promose the legacy of Nouwen's writing, teaching and life.

Disclaimer: Access to the photographic images in these displays, and the technical capacity to download them, does not imply permission for re-use. Permission to publish or otherwise use these images, and any accompanying text, must first be obtained in writing from Archival and Manuscript Collections.

See our Guidelines for Using the Archival and Manuscript Collections for more information.

Mandate of the Archives

The Archives exists to:

  • Collect and preserve archival material created by and about Henri Nouwen.
  • Collect and maintain a library of books, articles, interviews and other published material by and about Henri Nouwen, as well as reference material, artifacts and memorabilia that documents the life and work of Henri Nouwen.
  • Arrange and describe materials according to archival principles and make them accessible to the general public on a regular basis, unless access is restricted.
  • Provide adequate and appropriate conditions for the storage, protection, and preservation of archival material.
  • Provide regular reference services to individuals, organizations, or other groups interested in the activities and holdings of the Archives.
  • Provide educational and outreach programs whenever possible to increase public awareness and knowledge of the life and work of Henri Nouwen.

History of the Archives

The material in the Henri J.M. Nouwen Archives and Research Collection was donated to the John M. Kelly Library at the University of St Michael's College on January 19, 2000 by the Literary Executrix of Nouwen's estate, Sue Mosteller, C.S.J.. The donation included more than 124 linear feet of material from L'Arche Daybreak as well as 29 linear feet of material originally deposited by Nouwen at the Yale Divinity Library. The Archives and Research Collection was officially opened on September 21, 2000.

The Nouwen Archive Letter Project

A good letter can change the day for someone in pain … can create a smile and bring joy to the heart.

Henri Nouwen, The Genesee Diary

Henri's letter to you was a great gift. Join others in sharing that gift with future generations.

Henri Nouwen had a strong conviction about the value of reaching out to people through letters. This was not a conviction he simply wrote about, talked about or taught about.

This was a conviction that he dedicated hours to each day. He believed that a good letter could really change someone's day and life. Not only that, he believed that a letter written to one person, could be helpful in the life of another person. On May 26, 1988, in a letter to a very close friend of his, Henri writes "Meanwhile, I have shared your letters with a few of my intimate friends who are struggling with similar questions as you are, and for whom your letters are extremely significant."

For these important reasons, the Henri Nouwen Legacy Trust and the Henri J.M. Nouwen Archives and Research Collection have been working to gather together the letters that Henri wrote, with the intent of sharing them current and future generations.

Of course, Henri had many friends, colleagues, acquaintances and fans. It was quite a task just to identify whom we should contact! If you are reading this today, and you have letters, postcards, photos, manuscripts or other material related to Henri please be in touch! You are important, and we want to hear from you.

The response from those whom we have personally reached thus far has been overwhelmingly positive. People have graciously shared fond memories, humorous stories, and life changing moments that they experienced with Henri. Just about everyone who had material to share did so enthusiastically. To date we have received over two thousand new items into the archive, the majority of which are letters written by Henri.

Yet we recognize that there is still more work to be done. We patiently await those who are searching for their letters from Henri, and we are committed to reaching out to those with whom we have not yet made contact. Perhaps you'll be hearing from us soon!

Naturally, many of you will want to see the letters that have been collected. For now, we can only display a small highlight of the letters in the PDF booklets posted at the right hand side of this page. More booklets will be posted over time.

An in depth exploration of the letters is possible for all who are doing work on Henri's legacy. This may include researchers, scholars, presenters, writers etc. Please email to place a research request, and schedule a date to visit Henri's Archive.

Sincere gratitude to all who have so generously participated in The Letter Project thus far and we look forward to connecting with many others.

The Nouwen Archive Letter Project General Inquiries:

Ms. Brynn Lawrence
Project Coordinator

The Nouwen Archive Letter Project
John M. Kelly Library
113 St. Joseph St.
Toronto, ON M5S 1J4

416-926-1300 ext 3609

Henri J.M. Nouwen - A Biographical Timeline

Donating Material to the Archives

The Archives actively pursues and accepts donation of material by or about Henri Nouwen. Letters, notes, audio and videocassettes, transcripts of talks, manuscripts and other material would be of great interest and value to the Archives. Please contact the Archivist to discuss your interest further. See the Henri Nouwen Letter Project for more detailed information about our ongoing efforts to collect and preserve material by Nouwen.

Contact Archival and Manuscript Collections

Using Archival and Manuscript Material

All items in the Archival and Manuscript Collections are non-circulating and can only be used in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Tuesday to Thursday
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
1:00 p.m. - 3:45 p.m.

An appointment is required.

Using the Archival and Manuscript Collections