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January 18, 2020
Home Lit & Letters Ransom Center Opens Arthur Miller Archive to Public

Ransom Center Opens Arthur Miller Archive to Public

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Two years after acquiring the bulk of playwright Arthur Miller’s literary archive, the University of Texas’ Ransom Center has finished cataloging the material and opened it the public for teaching and research.

This expansive collection of more than 300 boxes documents every phase of  Miller’s career, from his student writing while at the University of Michigan to his plays that are essential to American theater including “Death of a Salesman” (1949), “The Crucible” (1953) and “A View from the Bridge” (1955).

Also in the archive are 50 of Miller’s journals dating from the 1940s through the 2000s. And the correspondence include family letters as well as exchanges with notable theatrical and literary colleagues including Edward Albee, Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer, Cynthia Ozick and John Steinbeck. There’s also material that relates to Miller’s investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee. 

“There is a lot more to this archive than just (Miller’s) manuscripts,” said Eric Colleary, Ransom curator of theatre and performing arts. “This collection captures his ideas and personal thoughts and contains fragments of writings never completed, all of which helps paint a much broader image of Miller. There is a great deal here that has never been seen before.”

Page from Arthur Miller's three-volume FBI file,
Page from Arthur Miller’s three-volume FBI file, 1985. Arthur Miller Papers, Harry Ransom Center. After requesting his FBI file through the Freedom of Information Act in 1985, Miller learned that the government had been tracking him from the mid-1940s until at least the late 1960s.

In 1956, Miller defied the House Committee on Un-American Activities and refused to name suspected communists. His defiance of McCarthyism won him a conviction for contempt of court, which was later reversed by the Supreme Court.

Said Colleary: “We expect a broad range of research interest not only about Miller, but also projects about McCarthyism and the communist witch hunts, American politics in the ’50s and ’60s, and Miller’s efforts dealing with censorship on an international level.

Miller began his relationship with the Ransom Center in the early 1960s when he donated 13 boxes of material in order to get a tax deduction. In 1983, after a fire at his Connecticut home, he transferred another 73 boxes of material. And in January 2005, just weeks before his death at the age of 89, Miller shipped more boxes to the Ransom Center.

However much of the Miller material at the Ransom Center remained on deposit, and uncataloged. It wasn’t until the 2017 purchase from the Miller Trusts that the remaining papers came to UT and cataloging got underway.

Read: “The archive of playwright Arthur Miller — finally, wholly, officially — belongs to UT’s Ransom Center.”

Scholars researching Miller’s work may access the newly cataloged papers in the Ransom Center’s Reading and Viewing Room. The current finding aid is available online at ransom.center/arthurmiller.

nge Morath (American, b. Austria 1923–2002), [Arthur Miller in his study, Roxbury, Connecticut], 1987. Gelatin silver print, 20.2 x 25.2 cm. © Inge Morath/Magnum Photos. Arthur Miller Papers, Harry Ransom Center.
nge Morath (American, b. Austria 1923–2002), [Arthur Miller in his study, Roxbury, Connecticut], 1987. Gelatin silver print, 20.2 x 25.2 cm. © Inge Morath/Magnum Photos. Arthur Miller Papers, Harry Ransom Center.

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
Jeanne Claire van Ryzinhttp://sightlinesmag.org
An award-winning arts journalist, Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the founder and editor-in-chief of Sightlines.