COLLEGEVILLE --  The Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at Saint John's University has received over $1.4 million in grant funds to create an online database of rare handwritten materials.

The grant, supplied by the National Endowment for the Humanities, will fund a three-year project to catalog 53,000 digitized manuscripts.

The database, according to the museum, will prominently feature "authors and titles originating from under-represented or little-known literary traditions."

"Across the Middle East, Africa and Europe, there are Christian and Islamic handwritten books and scrolls previously unknown, inaccessible, and endangered by weather, war and civil unrest. In many cases, these documents are the only surviving records of local cultures that existed in the past; (The Hill Museum and Library) has been working for years to photograph and digitize them."

The grant will cover the cost of seven catalogers and metadata experts to make the already-digitized collection available to scholars worldwide.

Of the total amount, $1,208,474 is an outright grant; the remaining $200,000 must be matched by funds raised by the museum.

All manuscripts cataloged in the project will be searchable via the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library's online "Reading Room."