About vHMML

hand-drawn map with resources from Diyarbakir. Meryem Ana Syriac Orthodox Church, 38;301;2-7



vHMML offers researchers at every level of experience the resources and tools they need to work with manuscripts. vHMML will ultimately cover several manuscript cultures from Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. It makes abundant use of high-resolution images of manuscripts from libraries around the world, many of them digitized as part of HMML’s mission to preserve and share important, endangered, and inaccessible manuscript collections through digital photography, archiving, and cataloging.

Introductions to each component of vHMML are readily available as you explore.


vHMML is an initiative of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library. The project began as a partnership between HMML and developers from the Center for Digital Humanities at Saint Louis University (James Ginther, PI) and the Carolingian Canon Law Project at the University of Kentucky (Abigail Firey, PI), with initial support from a 2012 National Leadership Grant by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, supplemented by Arcadia.

Guidance during the development phase was provided by the vHMML Council in three annual meetings held each August from 2012-2014. The vHMML Council included HMML staff, scholars representing both Western and Eastern Christian manuscript studies, an advisor in web-based instruction, the co-PIs from Saint Louis University and the University of Kentucky, and developers from both of those institutions.

The original workplan was for the Saint Louis team to work on School, Lexicon, Reference (then called Library), and Folio, while the team at the University of Kentucky would focus on Scriptorium, the most complex part of the project. After the second Council meeting in August 2013, Folio moved to Kentucky to be developed along with Scriptorium. By fall 2014, having exhausted their portion of the grant funding, the team at SLU determined that they had to discontinue work on their components of vHMML. After a period of assessment and consultation, HMML retained Solution Design Group (sdg) of Golden Valley, Minnesota, who worked with HMML staff to redevelop School, Lexicon and Reference. The team at the University of Kentucky completed Folio in 2015. As the launch date for vHMML drew closer, it became clear that the potential of Scriptorium could be better realized if it remained at the University of Kentucky as a resource for Digital Humanities projects beyond the scope of vHMML. Folio was the first resource created using Scriptorium's rich suite of tools.

Concurrently HMML was developing the concept of a virtual Reading Room, which in turn led to a plan for a comprehensive makeover of OLIVER, a manuscript catalog first developed in the late 1990s. These two additional projects were driven by the imperative to make HMML’s digital collections more easily and comprehensively available. The goal is free access to complete manuscripts for registered users, supported by greatly improved metadata, search functionality, and a hospitable means for submitting corrections or additions to existing cataloging.

Content for vHMML has been created by a team of scholars with expertise in the various manuscript cultures represented in the project. HMML staff worked on Lexicon and Reference, and we gratefully acknowledge the generous permission of the British Library to use Michelle Brown’s definitions of manuscript terminology from the online version of Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts (1994). Content for Latin School and for Latin manuscripts in Folio was created by Carin Ruff (Washington, DC). As the pioneer content creator, Carin developed the basic schema used throughout vHMML School. Syriac School and associated manuscripts in Folio were the work of Adam McCollum, at that time Lead Cataloger of Eastern Christian Manuscripts at HMML.


vHMML has relied on the generous support of many donors, both institutional and individual. Initial funding came from a National Leadership Grant awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency. The project received significant contributed funding and services from Saint Louis University and the University of Kentucky Research Foundation during the initial development phase. Further funding for vHMML has been provided by the Arcadia Fund of London and by generous individual donors.

Creation of Reading Room has been made possible by a grant from the Theology Program of the Henry Luce Foundation.

The redevelopment of the manuscript catalog (OLIVER) has been supported by a grant from the Scholarly Communications Program of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


HMML staff working on the project have included Columba Stewart, OSB, Project Director; Daniel Gullo (from 2014), Matthew Heintzelman, Adam McCollum (until 2015), Eileen Smith (from 2015), William Straub (from 2014), Wayne Torborg, and Theresa Vann (until 2013). Members of the vHMML Council have included the original co-PIs, James Ginther (then of Saint Louis University) and Abigail Firey (University of Kentucky), as well as Wil Hawk (Baltimore, MD), Scott Johnson (Georgetown University), Ellen Joyce (Beloit College), Joel Kalvesmaki (Dumbarton Oaks), Carin Ruff (Washington, DC), Andrew Scheil (University of Minnesota). The original landing page image and the color palette were the work of Alan Reed, OSB. The original Folio design template was created by Differential (Cincinnati, OH) in 2013-2014. For the initial release of vHMML in 2015, Daniel Gullo, William Straub, and Columba Stewart based the site design on Differential's template. For the release of Reading Room and a new version of Folio in 2016, they developed a new vHMML template with assistance provided by Shinebox (Minneapolis, MN).

vHMML /Reading Room concept and grant development: Columba Stewart, OSB

Software development:

  • Reading Room and the backend Catalog Database were designed and developed by Daniel Gullo, William Straub, and Columba Stewart, OSB, with coding by Chad LaVigne of sdg, and initial BA and QA by Mark Spangler of sdg
  • School, Lexicon, and Reference were developed by Chad LaVigne of sdg, with BA and QA by Mark Spangler; development at HMML was by Daniel Gullo and William Straub, with the assistance of Columba Stewart, OSB, and Nick Welshons
  • Folio and Scriptorium were initially developed by James Howard and Andy McDonald of the University of Kentucky, with David Pearce and Greg Neiheisel from Differential
  • Folio was redesigned by Daniel Gullo, Columba Stewart, William Straub and Chad Lavigne of sdg in 2016 as part of the development and launch of Reading Room
  • Initial development of School, Lexicon, and Reference (then called Library) was by Patrick Cuba, Bryan Haberberger, Donal Hegarty, and Han Yan of the Center for Digital Humanities, Saint Louis University
Thank you to:
  • the Getty Museum for use of their The Structure of a Medieval Manuscript and Making Manuscripts YouTube videos
  • Jan Kovarik from GLYPHICONS for providing the Glyphicons
  • PBWorks for use of their non-commercial wiki for planning and organization of the vHMML project


  • vHMML Lexicon, Reading Room, Reference, and School were written in Java™ and HTML running on an Apache Tomcat Server utilizing MySQL for storage
  • Image viewing in Reading Room was implemented using the Mirador fully featured IIIF viewer
  • Reading Room and Folio images are stored on a digilib image server
  • Image viewing for vHMML School utilizes OpenSeaDragon
  • Bootstrap was utilized for responsive design
  • vHMML relies heavily upon Elasticsearch for improving findability and search results
  • w3id provides our permanent links
  • Special thanks to Jim Gramke and Josh Trutwin from CSB/SJU IT Services for the server configuration, security and maintenance


The source code for vHMML is open source and available for free download from Github at https://github.com/vHMML.


Please also see our vHMML Terms of Use.

If you have suggestions or need further assistance, please contact us.