Alumnus to describe effort to digitize Iraqi manuscripts on ‘60 Minutes’

Photo of Columba Stewart
Columba Stewart

Graduate School alumnus the Reverend Columba Stewart will be featured on the CBS news program “60 Minutes” at 6 p.m. (CST), Sunday, Dec. 24. (Broadcast time is subject to change. Check local listings.)

Stewart, who earned an M.A. in religious studies at Yale in 1981, is executive director of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) and professor of theology at Saint John’s University School of Theology and Seminary.

60 Minutes” news correspondent Lesley Stahl interviewed Stewart in Iraq, where HMML is partnering with displaced Iraqi Christians to digitize thousands of manuscripts that document the region’s culture and history. These collections are at risk of disappearing because of war, looting, disasters, and neglect. 

To make these digital resources accessible and searchable, HMML developed vHMMLSM, (Virtual HMML), a sophisticated database and viewing platform that allows users to search for manuscripts by country, repository, author, language, genre, date, features, city, or even script. vHMML is one of the world’s largest and most culturally diverse online collection of manuscript images. 

HMML is currently digitizing both Christian and Islamic manuscript collections at 16 fieldwork sites in 11 countries. HMML’s mission is to preserve and share the world’s manuscript heritage. Established in 1965, HMML has formed partnerships with more than 580 libraries and archives worldwide.