Indianapolis Museum of Art gives mid-century Modernist masterpiece 21st-century treatment

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  • June 23, 2015

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Miller House and Garden in Columbus, Indiana

The Indianapolis Museum of Art has unveiled a new online archival collection for Miller House and Garden, one of the nation’s most highly regarded mid-century Modernist residences. Located in Columbus, Ind. and open for scheduled tours, the site is one of two National Historic Landmarks owned by the IMA.

The robust digital collection contains 17,699 downloadable images, including architectural drawings, material samples, photographs and administrative documents related to the history of the property. The archive spans more than 50 years, from the initial planning and construction of the house to later renovations and interior design projects.

The digitization project was made possible by a $190,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded to the Museum in May 2012. During the three-year project, the IMA scanned and photographed the contents of 68 archival boxes and 70 flat file folders to create the online collection. Throughout the process, Archives staff shared findings on a corresponding Tumblr site, Documenting Modern Living: Digitizing the Miller House & Garden Collection.

Miller House and Garden exterior

“Pieces from The Miller House and Garden Collection are some of the most frequently requested materials from the IMA Archives,” said Samantha Norling, archivist at the IMA. “Digitizing the collection provides scholars and those with an interest in architecture, landscapes, design and mid-century Modernism with easy access to these materials. The IMA as a whole is dedicated to providing online access to the Museum’s unique holdings, and the digitized Miller House and Garden Collection is the IMA Archives’ first contribution to these efforts.”

Miller House and Garden was commissioned in 1953 by industrialist and philanthropist J. Irwin Miller and his wife, Xenia Simons Miller. The property showcases the work of three of the world’s leading 20th-century architects, designers and landscape architects: Eero Saarinen, Alexander Girard and Dan Kiley. In 2000, the property was designated a National Historic Landmark while still being occupied by its original owners. In 2009, members of the Miller family donated the house and gardens, along with many of its original furnishings and the archives collection, to the IMA. The site opened to the public in May 2011, with tours made possible through the Columbus Area Visitors Center.

“In many ways Miller House and Garden is the jewel in the IMA’s crown,” said Dr. Charles L. Venable, the IMA’s Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO. “The new digital archive allows a world-wide public to access this modern masterpiece, and illustrates the collaboration and innovation that went into creating it.” 

The nationally-recognized IMA Lab, an in-house group of designers, developers, and digital strategists, created a custom digital archives database for the Museum through which The Miller House and Garden online collection will be made available. Additional digital collections from the IMA Archives will be added in the future.

Visit the new digital collection online at

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