• Last modified 1245 days ago (Nov. 26, 2020)



staff photo by alexander simone

Marion resident Shirley Bowers has collected 329 nativity scenes over 40 years. The collection includes between 100 and 120 sets that are on permanent display in two cases.

Nativity collection
40 years in the making

Staff writer

Shirley Bowers doesn’t remember how she got started collecting nativity scenes, but she realizes there is little stopping her after 40 years.

“If someone brings me one, of course I take it,” she said. “I’m not going to turn it down, but most people know I have a whole bunch of them.”

Bowers keeps a list of all the ones she has received, which includes the dates and descriptions of each, and who it came from. According to Bowers’ list, she owns 329 nativity scenes from as early as 1980.

“I don’t know if I told them I wanted a collection,” she said. “They just would give me more. That was something that was easy for them to find. If they wanted to give me something, ‘Well, we’ll give her a nativity.’ With so many different ones, tracking all their details is a must for Bowers.

“I kept track as I got them,” she said. “I had to or I never would have known what I was doing.”

The other change that occurred as her collection multiplied was that the scenes became smaller, so each was small enough to fit in her cabinets.

“I had to tell people, don’t give me any big ones anymore,” she said. “I just don’t have room for them.”

Roughly a third of them, between 100 and 120 sets, are on display year-round in two cabinets.

The sets in her cabinets haven’t changed spots in 28 years, when Bowers moved into her home on N. Roosevelt St. in Marion. Despite the permanent displays, Bowers waits to bring out more.

“I enjoy Thanksgiving before I start Christmas,” she said.

Even when it’s time to decorate for Christmas, Bowers rarely uses her full collection.

“It’s too hard to move them,” she said. “What I probably should do is start giving them to people as Christmas gifts.”

Her collection is diverse, with nativities from around the world of varying types. This includes a wooden set from Vatican City, a handmade gift from a wedding in Alaska, and a music box from a trip to Germany.

There are far too many to pick a favorite, but she especially enjoys musically themed nativities.

“I’m a musical person,” she said. “I have a piano. I played at Kiwanis and was their pianist, and I’m the pianist at Marion Senior Center.”

Last modified Nov. 26, 2020