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Writers Conference

Grand Forks, ND



The University of North Dakota (UND) has hosted the Writers Conference for over 40 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.

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. Crystal Alberts, Assistant 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, Library Systems and Services Department, worked on conversion and delivery in digital format.

In 2010, the UND Writers Conference received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, 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.

The goal is to convert and make available all sessions through the Library’s Digital Collections website.  In the coming months, WCDP team will continue to seek funding to support the ongoing work of the project.  Those interested in learning more about the WCDP may go to the Library’s website,

As materials become available, they are added to the UND Writers Conference Virtual Reading Room available at


Curt Hanson
Chester Fritz Library
3051 University Avenue Stop 9000 University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, ND  58202-9000


Dr. Crystal Alberts
English Department
276 Centennial Drive Stop 7209
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, ND  58202-7209

May 2011

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