The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin honors one of the most influential playwrights in history with its Stories to Tell: Selections From the Harry Ransom Center exhibition.
Currently on view until August 18, 2019, the Center’s collection now features rare materials from Miller’s archives. In 2018, the center announced that they had been granted permission from Miller’s estate to receive and display the rest of The Crucible writer’s archives, giving them access to over 200 boxes of letters, drafts, awards, and more, most of which can be seen at the exhibit.
While the exhibit is open, researchers are collecting, organizing, and cataloging all of their findings so the Arthur Miller papers can be available for research in November of this year.
Check out some of the historic offerings from the Harry Ransom Center below:
Presented at the Third Annual Tony Awards ceremony, this medallion was the first official Tony Award for Best Play ever presented—in the prior two years, awardees were given scrolls.
Death of a Salesman Notes
Miller often began drafting sketches for plays in simple composition books such as this, which captures Miller’s earliest notes on what would become Death of a Salesman. In this scene, Miller drafts dialogue that would largely appear in a similar form in the final draft. The super objective of the scene—the main idea he wants to convey to the audience—is written at the top of the page: “Biff’s telling of the theft must suggest the Dream.”
Miller’s Research for The Crucible
Miller was no stranger to conducting archival research. In preparation for writing The Crucible, he spent weeks at the Essex Institute in Salem, Massachusetts, reviewing trial transcripts, eyewitness accounts, and imagery from the period. Material like this—showing a writer’s process from research to writing to production—is one of the unique strengths of the Ransom Center’s archival holdings.
Miller’s Student ID
Arthur Miller’s student identification card for the University of Michigan from 1937.
Miller’s FBI File
Miller was keenly aware of the federal government’s scrutiny of writers and artists suspected of communist tendencies. Like many of his generation, Miller’s experiences living through the Great Depression led him to believe that America’s early attempts at a capitalist economy had failed and another solution was needed. He was never a member of the Communist Party but attended meetings of organizations that would eventually be investigated by the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities. Miller would eventually be called to testify in front of the committee in 1956, where he refused to name others suspected of having communist beliefs. He was charged and convicted with contempt of Congress—a conviction later reversed by the Supreme Court.
While preparing his memoir Timebends in 1985, Miller requested this copy of his FBI file through the Freedom of Information Act. In its three volumes, he learned that the American government was tracking his activities from the early 1940s through at least the mid-1960s.
In 1962, Miller married the noted photographer Inge Morath. Over the next several decades, Morath photographed Miller’s productions and his life and work at home. Many of these photographs are included in the archive, offering a rare glimpse into Miller’s private life.