“Mad Men,” an acclaimed show that explored a bygone era, will itself be grist for future cultural historians, thanks to a donation to the University of Texas at Austin.
Matthew Weiner, the show’s creator, and Lionsgate, the producing studio, have given the show’s archive to the university’s Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum. The materials include script drafts and notes for all 92 episodes, costumes and props, as well as a collection of historical ads, magazines and other artifacts the producers used for reference and research.
“Mad Men,” an award-winning drama about angst and advertising in 1960s America, ran on AMC from 2007 through 2015. Though never a ratings hit, it was a critical favorite that influenced other shows — as well as, with its sleek midcentury styling, the worlds of design and fashion.
“It’s our hope that the ‘Mad Men’ archive can satisfy academic curiosity and also provide creative inspiration,” Weiner said in a statement. “Both artists and scholars can retrace our steps and see how we became interested in the parts of the story we were interested in, and how the creation of the physical world as well as the characters and story lines in the show were the work of many talented people.”
The items and papers, which fill about 150 file boxes, will take roughly a year to catalog, said Steve Wilson, the Ransom Center’s film curator. Afterward, the materials will be available for study by scholars and the general public, and be the subject of future exhibitions. A few items will be on display in the center’s lobby until Feb. 1.
The Ransom Center is better known for its literary and photography holdings — it acquired the archives of Gabriel García Márquez and Magnum Photos in recent years — but it also has extensive film archives, including the collections of David O. Selznick, the producer of “Gone With the Wind,” among other classic movies, and actors Gloria Swanson and Robert De Niro.
The center pays for some acquisitions, but the “Mad Men” archive was a donation. Discussions regarding the gift began near the end of the show’s run, after Weiner, during a trip to Austin, visited a “Gone With the Wind” show at the facility.
“He saw the scripts and memos and behind-the-scenes photos,” Wilson recalled, “and said, ‘This is what I want for ‘Mad Men.’”