Written by Andi Feddeler
Most of us have some experience with Arthur Miller and his works, whether from acting out The Crucible in high school or being forced to study Death of a Salesman. My own high school put on a production of After the Fall and explored Miller’s many personal relationships and inner conflicts. Nobody can doubt his influence on American literature and society, especially considering his numerous awards ranging from the Tonys to a Pulitzer Prize. He was in the public eye for years on end, and held a prominent place in Hollywood for his film productions and sometimes scandalous social life. Nearly everyone in the ’50s followed his affair and marriage to icon Marilyn Monroe, which ultimately ended in a divorce 5 years later. Throughout all of this, he retained his status as an incredible playwright and author.
Ever since Miller passed away in 2005, the final resting place of his literary works has been a contention. For decades, The University of Texas at Austin’s own Harry Ransom Center housed a large amount of his manuscripts and pieces, though these are largely inaccessible to students and scholars. Recently, The Austin Chronicle reported that the HRC bought Miller’s entire archive for $2.7 million after a debate with the Miller estate, who wanted to sell to Yale University despite Miller’s request that everything rest in Texas. The Ransom Center’s acquisition of the archive is a huge step forward in advancing its status as a prestigious archival museum, as well as nearly completing the collection of works Miller had previously sent. This will allow scholars researching Miller’s life and legacy to find incredibly important pieces of information all in one location.
The archive will be neighbors with many extraordinary collections of work, including the donated archives from Mad Men acquired just a year ago, and many pieces from Samuel Beckett, Jane Austen, E. E. Cummings, and more. Perhaps the most notable item in the HRC is one of 21 copies of the Gutenberg Bible—the first major book mass produced with movable type. Jack Kerouac‘s writing journal kept during the production of On the Road sits alongside John Wilkes Booth’s personal promptbook from Richard III. The museum houses millions of literary works, many of them rare books and manuscripts from high-profile figures; it also hosts many props, costumes, and papers from famous productions and actors. Now, Miller’s legacy will live on within the walls of this impressive institution as well.