Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Insider's Perspective:  Anatomy of an Archive

 

Every archive in the Ransom Center’s collections is unique, yet most archives share some common elements—correspondence, a succession of manuscript and typescript drafts that show the evolution of a text, diaries, journals, business papers, page proofs, and other items related to the work of a writer or artist.  Archives also often include photographs, artwork, books, and the occasional personal effects.  These materials provide invaluable information to textual and bibliographic scholars, historians and philosophers, and other researchers.  They serve as source material for new editions of works and for critical analyses.  They also provide a wealth of interesting, and often revealing, materials for exhibitions. 

The archive of British playwright Tom Stoppard was acquired by the Center in 1991, and Stoppard has made several subsequent additions to the collection.  It includes typescripts of his many plays, handwritten manuscripts, page proofs, galley proofs, theater programs, photographs and negatives, advertising material, clippings of articles and reviews, correspondence, production files, and fan mail, among other items.  Nearly all of Stoppard’s major plays, screenplays, teleplays, and radio plays are represented in some form, along with many of his lesser-known works and some that were never produced.

The items displayed here offer an example of the variety of materials in a writer’s archive.  Each of these items relates to Stoppard’s play Arcadia, which opened to acclaim at the National Theatre in London on April 13, 1993.

Arcadia typscript

Hand-corrected typescript of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia.
Copyright Tom Stoppard.

 

Fax from Stoppard archive

Stoppard incorporated ideas related to chaos theory and
thermodynamics into the intricately structured plot of the play. 
While writing, Stoppard often consulted with his son, a
physics graduate student at Oxford University, and with his
son’s colleagues.  This page from a faxed explanation of
the second law of thermodynamics was written by Oxford scientist Robert May.  Courtesy of Robert May.

 

Arcadia program

“Programme” of Arcadia from the premiere production at the National Theatre.

 

Tom Stoppard with cast of Arcadia

Tom Stoppard with the cast of Arcadia after the Brussels production in 1993.  Photograph by Daniel Locus.
Copyright Locus.