I was thumbing through a copy of the latest issue of Vanity Fair in a waiting room yesterday and I had just started reading the Suzanna Andrews article on Arthur Miller, when I was called in for my appointment. Not surprisingly, after finishing the article today, I discovered that discussion about the piece, which reveals that Miller took great pains to conceal the fact that he had a son with Down syndrome whom he had institutionalized, was taking place all over the blogosphere and elsewhere. (Indeed, Miller’s entry in Wikipedia already had been revised several times.)
While the article has the potential to be just another nine days wonder (or whatever our contemporary Web equivalent might be), it is bound to have an impact on Miller’s reputation and the study of his work. Admittedly, it was not the first thought that the article provoked, but my reading did make me curious to see what the finding aid for Miller’s papers might look like. After confirming that his papers were held by the Harry Ransom Center, I searched their Web site in vain for an online finding aid, but I was startled to discover that an exhibition on Miller, Rehearsing the American Dream: Arthur Miller’s Theater, was scheduled to open on September 4, 2007 at the Center.
I’m not sure whether to pity or envy the public service and curatorial staff at the Ransom Center. Is this kind of indirect publicity for an exhibit and/or collection an archivist’s nightmare or dream come true? What sort of experiences might we have had in dealing with such awkward or potentially awkward situations?
Maybe there is a germ of an idea for an SAA session in here somewhere. I feel pretty sure, however, that we will see something inspired by the Anderson article as an episode on the Law & Order franchise sooner than that.