What is the PEN America Digital Archive?

The PEN America Digital Archive is a National Endowment for the Humanities-funded project, in collaboration with Princeton University’s Rare Books and Special Collections, of recordings dating back to the 1960s. For more information, please visit our About page, or begin browsing in our Advanced Search area. Alternatively, please see the Featured Collections for curated and contextualized content.

How do I search through the PEN America Digital Archive?

In order to facilitate a comprehensive search experience of our content, PEN America has integrated numerous methods for users to explore and access the digital collection:

  • Keyword Search

    Users can search across the collection using the keyword search bar on the home page. Users will then be directed to the search results and Advanced Search area, with the search criterion indicated in yellow. From here, users can further refine their searches using the provided filters.

  • Advanced Search

    The digital collection can be systematically narrowed using Advanced Search filters consisting of Subject Headings, Author/Participant, Type of Participant, Date, Media Type, Genre, and Location. The advanced search filters are constrained by the Boolean search operators of “AND/OR.” Within a given search filter, the elements will filter via “OR.” For instance, if the user is searching via “Type of Participant,” choosing Poet/Author/Activist/Music Critic, the results will collate ALL of those search criterions and retrieve ALL of those choices. Meanwhile, if a user searches between search filters, the search operator “AND” will narrow the search by combining terms. For instance, a user may search for “Poet” OR “Author” (via Type of Participant) AND “1966 Congress” (Genre) AND “Technological Advancement” (Subject Headings).

  • Browsing

    Without taking any action, all assets are displayed in the Advanced Search area. At a glance, a user will see an asset’s genre, title (with an icon denoting media type), description, author(s)/participant(s), and date. From this display, both the genre and the author(s)/participant(s) are hyperlinked to associated content—users can click on these hyperlinks to begin filtering their searches. Users may click the title link of a particular asset to be taken directly to the record page with media embed. Alternatively, users may use the Archive Index. The Archive Index allows users to browse the collection from three basic, non-filtering categories consisting of:

    • The Entire Archive: This contains every asset title that is currently housed within the archive, in alphabetical order. By hovering over a title and clicking the link, a user will be taken to the record page of that asset.
    • Subject Headings: This is a flat, non-hierarchical display of subject headings with the corresponding number of assets associated with them. By hovering over and clicking on a heading, a user will be taken to the Advanced Search page, where the asset(s) will be available to either further filter or to select to access the entire record.
    • Author/Participant: Similar to the Entire Archive and Subject Headings indexes, this category allows users to see the entirety of all participants from 1960 onward, along with the associated number of records corresponding to each. The Author/Participant index functions in the same manner as the Subject Headings index.
  • Featured Collections

    Featured Collections consist of material that has been curated and contextualized toward specific tropes, themes, events, and/or individuals that address PEN America’s mission of uniting writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

  • RESTful API

    The PEN America Digital Archive has implemented a RESTful API allowing developers, programmers, and data-driven users to access, at scale, our metadata in CSV, XML, or JSON. In order to access the API, users need to apply for an API Key. Please email [email protected] so that we may coordinate access.

How can I filter my searches?

You can filter your searches by Author/Participant,  Genre, TimelineType of Participant, Location, and/or Subject Heading.

Does PEN America accept material that is relevant to the collection?

Yes, we accept material that is relevant to both our online audio/video collection as well as to the larger collection housed at Princeton University. Please email [email protected] for more information.

Does the PEN America Digital Archive include material from other PEN centers?

Not currently. PEN Centers across the world typically function with a high degree of autonomy. The material in the PEN America Digital Archive reflects material primarily associated with PEN America, located in New York City.

What am I permitted to do with the digitized items found on the PEN America Digital Archive website?

The digital platforms may only be used for noncommercial purposes. You may not use the digital platforms to distribute or otherwise publish any material containing any solicitation of funds, advertising, or solicitation for goods and services. You may not reproduce, distribute, transmit, display, prepare derivative works, perform, or use in any other way that is prohibited by copyright law without consent of the copyright holder any copyrighted material found on or in PEN America’s digital properties. You may copy and print content for your personal, noncommercial use only, provided that you include all copyright and other notices contained in the content and that you do not modify the content. To request permission from PEN America for any other use, please contact PEN America at [email protected].

Please visit PEN America’s Terms & Conditions or email [email protected] for further information.

How is Princeton University involved with PEN America’s archives?

Princeton University’s Department of Rare Book and Special Collections has maintained PEN America archival content since 1994 and, with generous funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, has partnered with PEN America to ensure that future audio/video material will also be preserved and made available to the public. To access Princeton University’s PEN America collection, please see their finding aid.

Users can contact Princeton University’s library through its universal contact portal or by calling (609) 258-1470. Alternatively, users can email a librarian. More information can be found on the department’s website.

How do I learn more about the technical considerations and process involved in the creation of the PEN America Digital Archive?

Please see our Technical Documentation for information concerning the project’s workflow and technical approach.

Who worked on the PEN America Digital Archive?

PEN America worked closely with a diverse group of staff and partners comprising academic institutions, information professionals, designers, developers, and preservation companies. For further information, please see our Staff and Partners.

Who do I contact to provide feedback, mistakes, or problems?

If you find mistakes, or if you have additional or conflicting information about a particular asset, please contact PEN America at [email protected].