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‘Campus Building’ from UND Digital Press celebrates Merrifield Hall

New book studies and reflects on the history, space and people of one of UND’s oldest and busiest buildings

Merrifield Hall exterior
Merrifield Hall. UND archival image.

“Campus Building,” from the Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, celebrates the experience of teaching and learning in the historic Merrifield Hall. For almost a century, Merrifield Hall has played a formative role both in “campus building” and in the education of thousands of students. This book offers a reflection on is history, its space, and its people as it embodies the dual role of Merrifield Hall both in campus building and as a campus building.

This publication is the product of an English graduate seminar on “things” in which doctoral and masters’ students explored how we experienced Merrifield Hall as “a thing.” The course included both creative writers and students of literature, and their exploration of the building became an exercise in thinking about Merrifield Hall from a range of theoretic perspectives, traditions, methods and practices.

Book cover for "Campus Building"The book itself came about in the building that it both describes and celebrates. As Shilo Previti who edited the volume remarked: “On a typical day in Merrifield Hall, my work was habitually interrupted by a pastiche of the building’s past, present, and immortal future: beautiful wooden bannisters and amazing long oak tables; clanging pipes screaming through a lecture; a colleague of advanced experience chortling a wacky and somewhat confounding story; trick locks rendering some doors a lost cause while others open and close on their own; hours lost staring down at a strangely beautiful floor or other hidden artwork, including a particular sculpture on my ceiling; a cockroach big enough to (as our office manager says) ‘steal your lunch money’—Merrifield Hall had it all.”

Further informing the book’s character was the imminent overhaul of Merrifield Hall. The reconstruction of this campus building will fundamentally change its shape and historic character. As a result, the contributors to this volume recognized that it was both the end of one era and the beginning of something new. Writing from the moment of change offered new perspectives on the building:

Grant McMillan, one of the book’s editors, noted that building’s future shaped his experience: “I’d like to spend a day inside every building about to be torn down; there’s an uncanny freedom to be found in these spaces. On the precipice of being remade, their formalities and policies and protocols briefly relax, and the whole structure exhales.”

Samuel Amendolar, who has spent nearly his entire academic career in Merrifield Hall, offers this view: “‘Campus Building’ provides a unique interrogation of Merrifield Hall, UND’s architectural gem, not only as a space of higher education, but also an object which has facilitated inquisitive minds across the northern plains for nearly a century. The ongoing renovation of Merrifield Hall, while exciting and refreshing, has inadvertently highlighted the structure’s transient nature; if Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem Ozymandias tells us anything, while the structure may eventually succumb to natural forces, the permanence facilitated by the words of our contributors succeeds in preserving Merrifield Hall throughout this renovation process and beyond.”

Bill Caraher, who published the book, concludes: “This project is a great example of how our experiences in a place shape how we think, not only about the place, but also about our world. As UND’s campus undergoes exciting changes, it’s important both to remember how campus buildings once were, and to imagine how new buildings will contribute to life on campus in the future.”

The book is available now as a free digital download and as a high-quality color paperback.

For more information, contact The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota: https://thedigitalpress.org/

Contact details:


Shilo Previti: shilo.previti@UND.edu
Grant McMillan: grant.mcmillan@UND.edu
Sam Amendolar: samuel.amendolar@UND.edu


Bill Caraher: william.caraher@UND.edu