May 25, 2022

Digitized Recordings Online: PEN American Center Digital Archive of Free Expression

From the National Endowment For the Humanities:

Words have the power to transform the world. Free expression is an integral human right. So states the mission of the PEN American Center, founded in 1922. Based in New York City, PEN seeks to support persecuted and imprisoned writers, defend free expression, and advance literature and international cultural exchange.


Supported by a 2015 NEH grant, PEN American Center is preserving and digitizing more than 1,200 hours of recordings from 800 events previously unavailable to the public.  The project is being conducted in partnership with Princeton University, where portions of the collection are currently housed, and whose detailed finding aid is now available.  Some of the recordings are now available on the PEN America Web site.

For example, you can listen to Writing in a Racialized Society, a 1992 panel discussion in which Hazel Carby, Paula Giddings, Toni Morrison, Cornel West, and John Edgar Wideman discuss writing in a society where race plays a key and polarizing role.  Or dip into Alienation, a 1986 PEN Congress dialog with George Conrad, Jiri Grusa, Herberto Padilla, Salman Rushdie, Susan Sontag, and Derek Walcott about the nature of alienation and the state.  An Evening of Forbidden Books from 1982 features a dozen major writers and thinkers discussing and celebrating banned books.

Learn More, Read the Complete Blog Post

Direct to Finding Aid

Direct to Online Recordings (More to Come) via PEN America Web site.

See Also: Details About the NEH Grant (via NEH)

See Also: Details About the Project and Collection (via RBSC Manuscripts Division News, Princeton University)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.