The University of Alberta is an institutional member of the SSHRC SpokenWeb Partnership, which aims to develop collaborative approaches to literary historical study, digital development, and critical and pedagogical engagement with diverse collections of literary sound recordings from across Canada and beyond. The local, multidisciplinary team includes experts from the University of Alberta Libraries, programs in English and Film Studies, Digital Humanities, Art & Design, and Library and Information Studies.
Ever wonder what happened to all those reel-to-reel or cassette recordings made decades ago that were tucked into cardboard boxes to await future audiences? In and around university campuses across Canada, thousands of such recordings were made when local or visiting authors presented and discussed their work. However, most of those recordings have never been made publicly available, until now.
For decades, the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta has been a centre for literary activity, as both home to Canada’s longest running Writer-In-Residence Program and the organizer of countless literary events. Many of those events were captured on audio tape, and our collection includes more than one hundred recordings (about one hour in length each) held in the University of Alberta Library’s Aviary repository.
The recordings, featuring resident and visiting creative authors, were mostly collected by professors and students on the University of Alberta campus and consist of literary readings, lectures, interviews, and classroom sessions. A subset of several dozen recordings were recorded and produced by UAlberta faculty and staff for broadcast by CKUA Radio during its affiliation with the University of Alberta.
These unique historical objects are not only important artifacts of cultural heritage deserving of preservation, they are also a valuable resource for literary scholars, teachers, students, artists, and interested members of the public. The University of Alberta collection, in particular, documents several decades of Western Canadian literary activity, and the intersection of those creative authors with a national and international network of writers and scholars.