Writers Conference Digital Project
The University of North Dakota (UND) has hosted the Writers Conference for over 45 years. This annual event has brought together noted authors, poets, screenwriters, and film directors to share their works and insights. The creators of the Conference had the insight to videotape each session, creating a treasure of literary and historical documentation, which has been preserved in the UND Chester Fritz Library.
Beginning with a collaboration between Dr. Crystal Alberts and Wilbur Stolt, former Director of UND libraries, since 2008, the UND English Department and the Chester Fritz Library have undertaken the Writers Conference Digital Project (WCDP) to make the video documentation more widely available by converting the video tapes to digital format and offering the Conference proceedings through the Internet. Dr. Alberts, Associate Professor in the UND English Department, is the lead faculty member. She has incorporated the WCDP into her class assignments, where her students have created the metadata for each session. Dr. Alberts is also contacting authors, agents and publishers to obtain permission to make public the authors' and directors' presentations and panel discussions in digital formats. This work is critical to the success of the Project.
Under the leadership of Curt Hanson, Head of the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections, UND Library staff have worked on conversion of the video, standardization of metadata and loading of the Writers Conference sessions onto the Library's Digital Collections website. Shelby Harken, Head of the Library's Acquisitions and Bibliographic Control Department, has reviewed all metadata. Will Martin, Head of the Library's Systems and Services Department, worked on conversion and delivery in digital format.
The goal is to convert and make available all sessions through the Library's Digital Collections website. In the coming months and years, WCDP team will continue to seek funding to support the ongoing work of the project. For those interested in learning more about the WCDP, please visit the UND Writers Conference Virtual Reading Room.
In 2010, the UND Writers Conference received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which enabled the WCDP team to digitize approximately 76 hours of footage from the 1970-1975 Conferences, including previously unknown video recordings of the Beat Generation. Because these materials were stored on rare and obsolete media, the WCDP team contracted with experts in the field, specifically D.C. Video and The Cutting Corporation to preserve these materials.
In 2011, the UND Writers Conference received another grant from the NEA and will work to preserve additional materials from 1976-1979, including footage
from Truman Capote, Tom Wolfe, and William S. Burroughs, among others.
In 2014, the UND Writers Conference received another grant from the NEA and is working on preserving additional materials from the 1970s-1990s, including footage from Derek Walcott, Susan Sontag, and Edward Albee, among others.
In 2016, the UND Writers Conference received another grant from the NEA and is working on preserving additional materials from the 1970s-1990s, including footage from Richard Wilbur, Ann Beattie, Ntozake Shange, and Alex Haley, among others.
In addition to NEA awards, Dr. Alberts has also received grants from UND. Individual supporters have also donated generously to assist in the preservation of these unique materials.
Over the course of 2015-2016, as part of an Arts & Humanities Initiative Award, Dr. Alberts reprocessed the video, converting it from QuickTime format to MP4 and migrated the files to a new server. She also worked with Dr. Travis Desell of UND's Computer Science department and two Computer Science capstone students—Xu Cao and Bohan Zhang—to redesign the UND Writers Conference Virtual Reading Room, which now includes the ability to search the video transcripts (the search function is a prototype). Updates and improvements continue to be made.
Copyright and Use of Collection
The UND Writers Conference video and transcriptions may be freely used for educational, historical, and archival purposes. However, these materials may not be redistributed, published, and/or shared without the express written permission of the copyright holders, Dr. Crystal Alberts, and the University of North Dakota. You are solely responsible for any unauthorized use or distribution by you, or under your direction, of copyrighted materials.
Dr. Crystal Alberts
Director, UND Writers Conference
276 Centennial Drive Stop 7209
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, ND 58202-7209
Chester Fritz Library
3051 University Avenue Stop 9000 University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, ND 58202-9000