Resources for Description of Manuscripts from Understudied Christian and Islamic Traditions

Resources for Description of Manuscripts from Understudied Christian and Islamic Traditions

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Resources for Description of Manuscripts from Understudied Christian and Islamic Traditions addresses two primary challenges that confront open access to endangered manuscripts from understudied traditions digitized by the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML):

  • The grant provides support for a team of curators, catalogers, and metadata librarian to concentrate on creating manuscript descriptions for digitized, but uncataloged collections for HMML Reading Room.
  • It also provides funding to allow HMML’s catalogers to identify and standardize understudied and unknown names and titles used to describe and search manuscripts. The standardized or authorized names and titles, also called authority files, will be added to a new database supported by HMML with its data shared with the Library of Congress Linked Data Service and the Virtual International Authority File.

Cataloging initiative

The NEH grant, with additional support from the from Arcadia Fund and the Kellogg Foundation, allows HMML to expand its contingent of curators and catalogers to address the backlog of uncataloged collections from the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Asia, in order to create access to handwritten texts. Many of these texts are unknown, currently inaccessible, and endangered.

Working as a coordinated team on HMML’s core collections (Eastern Christian, Islamic, Malta, and Western European), curators and catalogers will prioritize understudied and inaccessible collections to make these manuscripts available online through HMML Reading Room.

The expanded cataloging effort will focus on collections likely to yield the richest harvest of names and titles not currently found in the Library of Congress or VIAF authority files.

CFMM 00034 13th-century Lectionary, Church of the Forty Martyrs, Mardin, Turkey (CFMM 00034)

HMML Authority File

This focused cataloging effort will expand HMML’s current lists of authoritative names and titles and share them with other projects to build out the scholarly infrastructure needed to advance the field and to broaden the impact of HMML’s digital preservation efforts.

The NEH grant also empowers HMML to develop the HMML Authority File (HAF), an open access database that will share these lists of authorities. This data will be submitted to the Library of Congress’s Name Authority Cooperative Program (NACO) as part of HMML’s partnership in the Program for Cooperative Cataloging.

Libraries and digital humanities projects require reliable metadata to improve their access and render it more shareable within an increasingly interlinked digital space. Because of the scale of HMML’s collections and the focus on materials historically underrepresented in western scholarship, HMML is becoming de facto the “institution of record” for information about previously unrecorded authors and texts, as well as for those authors and texts that feature in existing scholarship.

SAV BMH 19175 Jalāl al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad Maḥallī, Tafsīr al-Jalālayn, Mamma Haidara Library, Tombouctou, Mali (SAV BMH 19175)