Funding Granted for Full Cataloguing of International PEN’s Archives

The Harry Ransom Centre at the University of Texas in Austin has received a sizeable sum to catalogue its vast PEN archives.

The holdings, which relate mainly to International and English PEN but also contain letters and reports from writers and Centers around the world constitute perhaps the largest archive of PEN material in the world, dating back to 1912.

As well as details of meetings and regular newsletters, the archive also contains more than 100,000 pieces of correspondence revealing exchanges between members and documenting the association’s major issues and priorities.

Some of the represented writers include Chinua Achebe, Elizabeth Bowen, T. S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Nadine Gordimer, Günter Grass, James Joyce, Arthur Miller, Octavio Paz, Salman Rushdie, Aung San Suu Kyi, Virginia Woolf and W. B. Yeats.

The important holdings illustrate PEN’s place at the centre of debates not only around writing, censorship and freedom of expression, but also around refugees and asylum, human rights and international cooperation.

The NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) funding, for the project entitled “Writers Without Borders: Creating Global Access to the PEN International and English PEN Records”, includes cataloging and creating an online finding aid for the records.

While the HRC has long held this crucial and fascinating archive, large parts of it have remained uncatalogued, leaving many of its treasures and much of PEN’s history as an international organisation undiscovered.

This grant will allow archivists to properly log all of its contents, to digitise particularly interesting elements for public use and even to use materials to teach students about PEN’s history.


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