Among the many holdings of the IMA’s Archives is the Miller House and Garden Collection, the records documenting the design, construction, and maintenance of the Miller House and Garden in Columbus, Indiana. We’re happy to announce that you can have a peek at some of these materials online as we digitize the collection, thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
The importance of the Miller House and Garden to Modern design in the United States is clear: the house, named a National Historic Landmark in 2000, has been described as a paragon of mid-century modern residential design and its garden is considered to be among the most important Modern designs in American residential landscape architecture. And just as the Miller House and Garden is not your average residence, the Miller House and Garden Collection (MHGC) is not your average architectural archive.
What distinguishes the MHGC from other architectural collections? That’s easy. Size, multiple perspectives, time span, and types of materials.
How Big is Big?
For a collection about one house, the Miller House and Garden Collection is big. Very big.
Archival collections are often described in linear feet, but describing this collection as 333.5 linear feet means little to most people. Nor is it easy to picture 23,000 records. To break it down by other numbers – 51 boxes of files, photographs, samples, and drawings; 2 card file boxes; 12 oversize flat boxes of photographs and material samples; and 40 flat files of architectural plans – may provide a slightly better picture. As may analogies like this: if the records were laid out end to end they could lap the Indianapolis Motor Speedway twice or stretch the length a football field 88 times!
But what makes it so big is less about its physical size and more about its content – 50+ years of documentation representing hundreds of voices.
The Clients, the Architects, the Landscape Architect, the Contractor
A remarkable feature of the MHGC is the number of voices you hear: the clients, the architects, the landscape architect, contractor, suppliers, and engineers. Generally architectural collections present just the perspective of the architect. Sometimes papers from the client survive. Yet not in a single collection.