News & Events - Press Releases

6. Hill Museum & Manuscript Library

Press Contact: Father Columba Stewart, OSB, 320-363-3514

Web Site:

Dr. Columba looks at a manuscript with a group of people
Left to right: Director Father Columba Stewart, Cokie Roberts, Community Member Dr. Getachew Haile (seated), Board Chair Thomas Joyce, and Susan Hildreth. Click image to access full-size version.

The Benedictine monks of Saint John’s Abbey in Minnesota founded Hill Museum & Manuscript Library in 1965 in response to the destruction of manuscripts and books in European libraries during the two World Wars. Using the latest technology available, they created a microfilm collection for safekeeping against the possibility of another European war. Initially, the effort focused on preservation of western monastic manuscripts in Austria and Germany, but soon expanded throughout Europe to the Iberian Peninsula and south to Malta and Ethiopia. With escalating unrest in the Middle East, the museum began in 2003 to digitize manuscripts there. Started in Lebanon, the project quickly expanded to encompass Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and the Old City of Jerusalem. Today, library staff can be found working with their many partners anywhere in the world where rare books and manuscripts require protection from wars, political unrest, fraud, or even the well-meaning but sometimes damaging efforts at preservation by untrained volunteers.

Community Member: Getatchew Haile
As a professor at Haile Sellassie I (now Addis Ababa) University in Ethiopia, Getatchew Haile first partnered with the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library in 1972 through his work on the Ethiopian Microfilm Manuscript Library. In 1975, Haile was evicted from his home country for advocating democracy. He suffered a brutal attack by military forces, which left him paralyzed. While recovering in a London hospital, Haile was visited by the executive director of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, who offered him a position at the library. Soon after, Haile and his family made their home in Collegeville, Minnesota. Since then, Haile has made lasting contributions to the world of manuscript research as the library’s Cataloguer of Oriental Manuscripts and Curator of the Ethiopian Study Center. Haile is an accomplished scholar whose work at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library has helped save important pieces of Ethiopian history from destruction.

U.S. Representative Betty McCollum (DFL_MN_04), who nominated the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML):
"The work of HMML is inspiring, vitally important, and deserves recognition for excellence. The National Medal is an honor that places HMML among America’s preeminent libraries and highlights its commitment to preserve the world’s most endangered manuscripts. Father Columba Stewart and the entire HMML team deserve congratulations for earning this award. They have my deep appreciation for their tireless efforts to ensure mankind has access to these sacred texts for generations to come."

Next Winner: Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens