HMML Reading Room (vhmml.org) offers resources for the study of manuscripts and currently features manuscript cultures from Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. The site houses high-resolution images of manuscripts, many of them digitized as part of the global mission of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML), Collegeville, MN, to preserve and share important, endangered, and inaccessible manuscript collections through digital photography, archiving, and cataloging. It also contains descriptions of manuscripts from HMML's legacy microfilm collection, with scans of some of these films.


HMML Reading Room (formerly called vHMML) began as a partnership between HMML staff and developers from the Center for Digital Humanities at Saint Louis University, St. Louis (Dr. James R. Ginther, Principal Investigator) and the Carolingian Canon Law Project at the University of Kentucky, Lexington (Dr. Abigail Firey, Principal Investigator), with initial support from a 2012 National Leadership Grant by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a federal agency in Washington, D.C., supplemented by the Arcadia Fund, London.

Version 1.0, with School, Lexicon, Reference, and Folio, launched in October 2015. The first three components were developed by Chad LaVigne of Solution Design Group (sdg) in Golden Valley, MN. The team at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, developed Folio using the rich tools of Scriptorium, the digital environment they designed for collaborative research on manuscripts.

Version 2.0 added Reading Room and launched in August 2016. Even before the launch of Version 1.0, the HMML team was working on a virtual Reading Room that would be the centerpiece of Version 2.0. The task required a comprehensive makeover of OLIVER, HMML's online manuscript catalog first developed in the late 1990s. The choice of Mirador, a IIIF-compliant image viewer, and the creation of a new metadata schema to replace OLIVER, put HMML Reading Room at the forefront of developments in manuscript description for digital environments. Reading Room was funded by the Henry Luce Foundation, New York. The new catalog database that replaced OLIVER was funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, New York. Improvements to Version 2.0 were released in the spring of 2018 as the initial results of a Digital Humanities Advancement Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Washington, D.C.

Version 3.0, a complete reworking of the project with added data-sharing features, was launched in a series of releases between April and September 2018. The new design is optimized for simpler navigation and easier access to search options. Content across the site, including metadata in Reading Room, is now discoverable in web searches as a result of Search Engine Optimization. The new Data Portal and associated DH site realize HMML's commitment to sharing its metadata with researchers in the most user-friendly manner possible. With this new version, School was removed from the application and moved to a separate website more suitable for its needs.

Museum was developed in 2018 with the help of a generous donor. Museum provides access to HMML's art and photograph collections. These include:

  • The Arca Artium collection of prints and art objects donated to Saint John's University, Collegeville, MN, in 1995 by Frank Kacmarcik, Obl. OSB, a noted liturgical artist and consultant.
  • Photographs of monastic and other sites in the Middle East by Father Columba Stewart, OSB.
  • The Robert A. Hadley collection of photographs of archeological and historic sites in the Middle East, featuring many places in which HMML has digitized manuscripts.
  • Historic photographs from HMML's own collections.

In October 2020, HMML introduced a new logo and wordmark. With this new image system came the decision to retire the name "vHMML" and refer simply to "HMML Reading Room," which includes all of the components of vhmml.org.


HMML Reading Room relies on the generous support of institutional and individual donors. Funding for Version 1.0 came from a National Leadership Grant awarded by the IMLS, 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 was provided by the Arcadia Fund of London and by generous individual donors.

Creation of Version 2.0 with Reading Room was made possible by a grant from the Theology Program of the Henry Luce Foundation. The development of the new metadata schema was supported by a grant from the Scholarly Communications Program of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Version 3.0 was funded by a Digital Humanities Advancement Grant from the NEH.

The HMML Authority File (HAF) was funded by a special Preservation and Access grant from the NEH.


Concept and grant development for vHMML 1.0-4.0, Reading Room, Museum, and the HMML Authority File (HAF): Father Columba Stewart, OSB.

HMML staff working on the project have included Father Columba Stewart, OSB, Project Director; Dr. Daniel K. Gullo (from 2014), Dr. Matthew Z. Heintzelman, Dr. Adam McCollum (until 2015), John Meyerhofer (from 2017), Eileen Smith (2015-2018), William Straub (until 2017), Wayne Torborg, Dr. Theresa Vann (until 2013), and Dr. Catherine Walsh (from 2019).

The Version 1.0 Council consisted of Dr. James Ginther (then of Saint Louis University), Dr. Abigail Firey (University of Kentucky), Wil Hawk (Washington, D.C.), Dr. Scott Johnson (then of Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.), Dr. Ellen Joyce (Beloit College, WI), Dr. Joel Kalvesmaki (Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C.), Dr. Carin Ruff (Washington, D.C.), Dr. Andrew Scheil (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis). The original landing page image and the color palette were the work of Brother Alan Reed, OSB. The original Folio design template was created by Differential (Cincinnati, OH) in 2013-2014. The overall design of Version 1.0 by Dr. Daniel K. Gullo, William Straub, and Father Columba Stewart, OSB was based on Differential's template.

Version 2.0 featured a new design with assistance provided by Shinebox (Minneapolis, MN).

Version 3.0 has a new design developed by Dr. Daniel K. Gullo and John Meyerhofer (HMML), and Bryan Lor of sdg. Dr. Daniel K. Gullo and John Meyerhofer created the Data Portal and associated DH site. The Version 3.0 Advisory Board consists of Dr. Scott Johnson (University of Oklahoma, Norman), Dr. Matthew Miller (University of Maryland, College Park), Dr. Carin Ruff (Washington, D.C.), Dr. Caroline Schroeder (University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA), and HMML staff.

The HMML Authority File (HAF) team was Dr. Daniel K. Gullo, Dr. Catherine Walsh, and John Meyerhofer, working closely with HMML curators and catalogers.


  • Images of manuscripts from libraries around the world that have partnered with HMML, and images of manuscripts digitized by other projects.
  • Metadata in Reading Room and the HMML Authority File (HAF) has been created by catalogers around the world working with HMML staff.
  • HMML staff created Lexicon and Reference. We thank the British Library, London, for permission to use Michelle Brown's definitions of manuscript terminology from the online version of Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts (1994).
  • Latin School and descriptions of Latin manuscripts in Folio were created by Dr. Carin Ruff (Washington, D.C.), with thanks to the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, for use of their The Structure of a Medieval Manuscript and Making Manuscripts YouTube videos. Syriac School and descriptions of Syriac manuscripts in Folio were the work of Dr. Adam McCollum (former Lead Cataloger of Eastern Christian Manuscripts at HMML).
Software development:
  • Reading Room and the backend Catalog Database were designed and developed by Dr. Daniel K. Gullo, William Straub, and Father Columba Stewart, OSB, with coding by Chad LaVigne of sdg, and initial Business Analysis (BA) by Mark Spangler of sdg
  • School, Lexicon, and Reference were developed by Chad LaVigne of sdg, with BA and quality assurance (QA) by Mark Spangler; development at HMML was by Dr. Daniel K. Gullo and William Straub, with the assistance of Father Columba Stewart, OSB
  • 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 Dr. Daniel K. Gullo, Father Columba Stewart, OSB, William Straub, and Chad LaVigne of sdg in 2016 as part of the development and launch of Version 2.0
  • Version 3.0 was developed by Bryan Lor and Chad LaVigne of sdg
  • Museum was developed by Bryan Lor of sdg, with BA by John Meyerhofer and Katherine Goertz
  • The HMML Authority File was developed by Chad Lavigne, Ryan Strelau, and Adam Schroeder of sdg, with BA from Dr. Daniel K. Gullo, Dr. Catherine Walsh, and John Meyerhofer.


  • HMML Reading Room is written in Java™ and HTML running on an Apache Tomcat server
  • HMML Reading Room uses a MySQL database
  • Image viewing uses the Mirador IIIF viewer
  • Images are stored on a digilib image server
  • Image viewing for HMML School uses OpenSeaDragon
  • Bootstrap is utilized as a front-end framework
  • Ehcache provides caching for images
  • HMML Reading Room relies on Elasticsearch for indexing metadata and providing search results
  • w3id provides permanent links implementation
  • Special thanks to College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University, IT Services for the server configuration, security and maintenance


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

Please also see our Terms of Use.

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