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Winner of the DHMS Prize

Digital Humanities and Multimedia Studies Prize 2020

vHMML

https://www.vhmml.org/

Principal Investigator, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library
(Daniel Gullo, Project Director; Columba Stewart, Executive Director)

Commendation:

The Digital Humanities and Multimedia Studies Prize celebrates an outstanding digital research project in Medieval Studies. The 2020 recipient is the Virtual Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, led by Project Director Daniel Gullo and Executive Director Columba Stewart.

Developed by the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, and launched 2016-2019, the vHMML offers free online resources and tools for the study of manuscripts and archival material. Currently, it features manuscript cultures from Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. The elegantly designed vHMML site, https://www.vhmml.org, houses high-resolution images of manuscripts, many of them digitized as part of the Hill’s global mission to preserve and share important, endangered, and inaccessible manuscript collections through digital photography, archiving, and cataloging. To further this important mission in the digital age, the vHMML developed an enterprise software system to realize three strategic goals: education, access to digital and microfilm collections, and leadership in online digital manuscript studies.  These goals have been made manifest in a freely available, easily accessible online platform that offers users multiple applications to facilitate the study of manuscripts. The centerpiece of the site, the “Reading Room,” offers access to thousands of items in HMML's collections, as well as descriptions of manuscripts from HMML's legacy microfilm collection, along with scans of some of these films. Its excellent education component, the “School,” introduces learners to the sciences of paleography and codicology of Latin, Syriac, and Arabic scripts through lessons, exercises, and transcription activities – a feature particularly useful to those who may not have access to instruction in paleography at their own institutions.  The “Folio” component deepens the educational features of the site by offering annotation of a few digitized manuscripts to show how writing changes over time. Finally, the “Lexicon,” “Reference,” and “Data Portal” components allow for further, in-depth study for both novice and advanced users.

The vHMML project is a model of its kind and employs an impressive command of the latest technology to achieve its goals, while its design and data management plan ensures sustainability and interoperability for years to come. Written in Java and HTML running on an Apache Tomcat server, the vHMML employs MySQL for its primary database.  Its commitment to interoperability is seen through its use of the Mirador IIIF viewer in the Reading Room, Museum, and Folio. Moreover, the vHMML Code is stored on Github and is freely available with the aim of inspiring and facilitating other projects.

This is a digital project that aims high and achieves those aims. The vHMML is designed to be useful not just for research, or just for teaching, but for both.  Simultaneously, it engages in conversations surrounding the important and expanding global focus of the “Middle Ages.” The attention given to Latin, Syriac, and Arabic manuscript cultures both reflect and embrace this global outlook. In sum, the original contribution of this project to research and study of medieval manuscripts, and to Medieval Studies in general, as well as the significant public outreach represented by its open access and pedagogical character, alongside its sophisticated command of technology, make the Virtual Hill Museum and Monastic Library project an outstanding example of digital research and pedagogy in the field.

Kathryne Beebe (2020), University of North Texas, Chair
Lisa Reilly (2021), University of Virginia
James Ginther (2022), University of St. Michael's College, University of Toronto

Copyright ©2020 The Medieval Academy of America
Opinions expressed by members in print, video, or online represent their personal views, not necessarily those of the Medieval Academy of America.

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