The new archive will be housed at the Harry Ransom Center and will comprise scripts, drafts, props, costumes, video, notes and research materials that contributed to the show’s comprehensive recreation of Sixties America. Mad Men ran for seven highly-acclaimed seasons on AMC, and chronicled the life of Don Draper (Jon Hamm), his family and his co-workers in the advertising industry.
Weiner chose to donate the collection because he did not want it to be lost or for individual pieces to be sold off at auction. “There is a record here of mid-century America that digs so deep,” he said. “It would have been sad to let that go.”
Among the items in the archive are prominent show pieces such as Don Draper’s terms of re-employment letter and the medical file of Betty Draper (January Jones). The collection will also feature plenty of advertising poster boards, but also more unique items like the Star Trek spec script written by Paul Kinsey (Michael Gladis).
The archive will also highlight the intense amount of research that went into crafting Mad Men. “Look books” of Sixties fashion and design were created for each character and setting, while Weiner and the writers also amassed a trove of magazines to help them with everything from the news to Sixties slang, like when people first started saying “groovy.”
Alongside the props and historical artifacts, will be Weiner’s notes detailing various production battles, such as his efforts to get a Beatles song on the show. “My argument was, my show is fake until I get a Beatles song in there,” Weiner said (the show eventually spent $250,000 to use “Tomorrow Never Knows” in Season Five).
Weiner also suggested the rough drafts, screen tests and his own notes might hold some scrapped character secrets, though those items would primarily offer a look at how the show changed over time. “It often didn’t start the way it came out,” Weiner said. “You will get to see the origin of everything, from what a character was supposed to be like, to how a story was originally supposed to work. It’s all there.”
The Ransom Center will catalog the Mad Men archive over the next year. Some pieces will be put on display, while the collection will be available to researchers and students in UT’s radio, television and film program.