HMML Creates New Database to Assist Scholars of Understudied Manuscript Traditions

Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) Creates New Database to Assist Scholars of Understudied Manuscript Traditions

COLLEGEVILLE, MINN., OCTOBER 4, 2021 – The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) at Saint John’s University has developed a new database to support and enhance the study of understudied manuscript traditions. Created as part a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), HMML Authority File is an open-access database which establishes accurate and consistent data (“authorities”) for the names of persons, places, works, organizations, and families related to the manuscripts and artwork in HMML’s Reading Room and Museum, which provide free access to the collections of more than 800 libraries worldwide.

Authorities are used by libraries and scholars to identify and link manuscripts and collections. Many of the manuscripts HMML has preserved in Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East contain names that have not been included in international authority files, making them harder to find and study. In 2020, nearly 40 percent of HMML’s cataloged manuscripts contained names that lacked authorities in either the Library of Congress or the Virtual International Authority File. Today, authorities added to HMML Authority File are also added to the Library of Congress’s Name Authority Cooperative Program (NACO) as part of HMML’s partnership in the Program for Cooperative Cataloging.

Because of HMML’s focus on materials historically underrepresented in western scholarship, the scale of HMML’s collections, and its investment in preservation technology, HMML is uniquely positioned to build the scholarly infrastructure that currently does not exist for many traditions. This service-focused scholarship will in turn broaden the impact of digital preservation efforts around the world.

Dr. Daniel Gullo, NEH Project Director and Director of HMML’s Malta Study Center, said, “The funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities has enabled us to create a free, open-access application that will allow scholars and librarians from around the world to search and find thousands of names and titles from unique manuscripts that have been made available online for the first time through HMML’s efforts to create access to endangered and underrepresented libraries and archives.”

Currently, more than 10,000 names have been added to HMML Authority File, with more than 50,000 names expected in the coming years. These efforts will support librarians and scholars around the world to recognize previously unknown contributors to manuscripts; differentiate authors and texts that had been treated homogeneously; reunite separated materials; and trace the migration of handwritten texts across religious traditions and geographic, political, and linguistic divides.

About HMML

Established in 1965, HMML is a global cultural organization whose mission is to preserve and share the world’s manuscript heritage. It has formed partnerships with more than 800 libraries and archives worldwide. HMML has three areas of focus: digital preservation of rare and endangered manuscripts; cataloging and sharing the manuscripts online; and fostering research and education about the cultures that produced them. For more information visit

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