Top of my list at the moment is the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Tumblr following the process of digitizing the Miller House and Garden Collection, called Documenting Modern Living. Rather than waiting until every last piece was scanned, or saving the collection for scholars, the IMA (thanks to a $190,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant), is putting the process and the archival treats out there, day by day. I’ve written about the Miller House in the past: located in Columbus, IN, it was the longtime residence of J. Irwin and Xenia Miller, and created by an all-star cast of mid-century modern designers. Architecture by Eero Saarinen and Kevin Roche, interiors by Alexander Girard, landscape by Dan Kiley. And I have always wanted to know more about how these designers and their clients, all strong-willed and all knowledgeable, interacted.
Even in the site’s first weeks one can get a taste of the relationships, principally through their detailed correspondence. Highlights so far include back-and-forth between both Millers and Girard about fabrics and furnishings for the house. Attached to the image above of Herman Miller’s 675 Lounge Chair, designed by Charles Eames, is a handwritten note from Xenia: ‘Don’t like it for den even in brass.’ I’ve never liked this chair either, as it seems oddly stuck between an office chair and the Eames Lounge, with puffy proportions and a beefy silhouette. It made me happy that Xenia agreed. Calling Mrs. Miller Xenia may be too familar, but that’s the wonderful thing about reading letters. You get the flavor of the times and the players. And the notes between the Millers and Girard, in particular, seem ripe for episodes of a show called ‘Shopping With Sandro.’ I’ve peeked ahead in the archives, and another note comes with a drawing of a bracelet Girard designed for his own wife Susan; he offers to have one made for Xenia on behalf of her husband. That’s full-service design.