Hill Museum & Manuscript Library

Scaling for CBS's 60 Minutes in AWS


Since 1965, Saint John's University and the College of Saint Benedict has been dedicated to the preservation of manuscripts from around the world, through the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML). Specifically, HMML has sought out areas where historical artifacts are in danger—whether through disaster, conflict, or other circumstances, their goal is to ensure that these texts remain intact for the future. While printed texts can be found in various libraries and museums, manuscripts are unique, hand-written documents, whose value is endless for scholars of paleography, codicology, and numerous other disciplines. The cataloging of such documents involves taking high-resolution photographs of each page and providing detailed bibliographic information for reference. As of 2019, HMML is actively collecting manuscripts from Mali, Egypt, Jerusalem and a number of locations in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. In 2017, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) partnered with sdg to create a new website. The goal of this project was to create a cloud-hosted solution that would allow HMML staff to easily update website content and provide an updated look to the site in anticipation of increased web traffic following a featured story on 60 Minutes. For an institution that is completely funded by grants and donations, national media coverage of this magnitude represented a unique opportunity to expose the work HMML was doing to a massive audience of potential donors. With this in mind, one additional goal was to guarantee that the site could continue to deliver content with low latency during a flood of traffic. All of these goals had to be accomplished under a tight timeline with an unmovable deadline – the site had to be live when the 60 Minutes episode aired.

Our client envisioned a system that would:

  • Provide a fresh look that aligned with HMML branding
  • Include an interactive map & manuscript tour
  • Present a stronger, more cohesive visual mission statement
  • Allow for simple content management
  • Remove on-premise IT dependency
  • Guarantee uptime under heavy load
  • Deliver content with low latency for all of HMML’s global audience
  • Support any device


With a shared understanding of HMML’s vision for their new website, sdg began development on a solution that would bring that vision to fruition. sdg provided user interface and experience design, application development, system configuration, coordinated deployment, and mature software development practices from requirements through launch using Agile delivery processes. The resulting solution was a WordPress website running in the AWS Cloud on Amazon EC2, RDS, SES and CloudFront. WordPress delivered the simple content management capability that HMML desired and AWS services provided a way to quickly implement enterprise grade solutions to the infrastructure, delivery and performance goals of the project. While using the available funds in a responsible way and managing a very aggressive timeline sdg was able to create a site with an elegant design and an architecture that could scale to meet demand.

Benefits of the new system included:

  • A branded, user-centric user interface
  • Cross-device compatibility
  • Administrative tools and security to manage content creation
  • Cloud deployment to eliminate IT dependency
  • Comprehensive keyword search
  • Global caching of site content at edge locations around the world
  • Continuous integration pipeline management


sdg consultants served our customer in the following roles:

  • Agile project delivery and management
  • Business analysis
  • Quality assurance
  • UI/UX design
  • Enterprise architecture and application development
  • Infrastructure/DevOps support
  • Documentation and training

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