May 16, 2022

Minnesota: Hill Museum & Manuscript Library Digitizes Timbuktu’s Historic Manuscript Collections

From SJU in Collegeville, Minnesota:

The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) at Saint John’s University is creating digital records of more than 22,000 rare and historically-significant documents from a library in Timbuktu. The Mamma Haidara Family Library has one of the largest private manuscript collections in Timbuktu, and some of its documents date back to the 13th century.

In December 2013, HMML set up a two-camera studio in Mali’s capital city of Bamako. In collaboration with SAVAMA-DCI, a Mali-based nongovernmental organization, local workers were trained and began creating digital copies of manuscripts from Timbuktu’s private libraries. The studio expanded recently, adding two more cameras.


The technicians capture high-resolution, full-color, digital images of each manuscript. One copy is kept in Timbuktu by the library’s owner. Two copies are sent to HMML; one copy is cataloged, archived and placed in HMML’s facility on the campus in Collegeville. The other copy is stored in a secure location.


In addition to start-up funding from the Prince Claus Fund, the project in Timbuktu is getting financial support from the Arcadia Fund of London and from private donors.

Learn More About the Digitization Work, Read the Complete Release

See Also: Listen Online: At St. John’s, a quest to save ancient texts (via Minnesota Public Radio; December 5, 2014)

See Also: Minnesota: “Hill Museum & Manuscript Library Receives $3 Million Grant” (September 6, 2011)

See Also: Learn More About HMML’s Collections and Online Exhibits

See Also: HMML’s Preservation Work

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.