The Martin Miller and Hannah Norbert Miller collection is one of a number of important archives relating to German theatre and exile studies held by the Institute of Modern Languages Research at the University of London. The Institute is the home of the Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies, whose work focuses on German-speaking émigrés to Britain in the 1930s, and which had developed contact with many German-speaking exiles, such as Hannah Norbert Miller.
The collection as it stands at the start of this project comprises 13 archival boxes containing scripts, photographs, correspondence, programmes, newspaper reviews and sound recordings dated between the 1920s and the 1980s. It reveals the wealth of performances in theatre, radio, film and television programmes in which the couple was involved: from the German-speaking theatres of the former Austro-Hungarian lands in the 1920s and 30s (in Martin’s case), to the politically-charged theatre and cabaret scene of late-1930s Vienna, to the mainstream entertainments scene of post-war Britain. It documents the attempts of those who, through satire and the theatre, drew attention to the Nazi threat both in London and Vienna, and it sheds light on the Millers’ network of friends and acquaintances, many of whom were central figures in the English- and German-speaking performing arts world of the mid-twentieth century.
The collection was deposited at the Institute after Hannah’s death in 1998 by their son, Daniel Miller. It has since been catalogued at file level and is available to view on the online catalogue of Senate House Library (SHL) (http://archives.ulrls.lon.ac.uk/). The a summary of the papers can be found on the website of the IMLR, https://modernlanguages.sas.ac.uk/library/germanic-archives.
The aim of this project is to sort the papers and produce an item-level listing of the collection that will be available on the SHL catalogue and in PDF format from the IMLR website. We also plan to add the descriptions to archives gateways such as AIM25 and the Archives Hub, which will set the archives within a much wider intellectual framework and bring the collection to a greater range of researchers than would otherwise be reached. The collection will also be repackaged in line with archival standards to ensure long-term preservation, and through a number of events and activities (such as this blog) we hope to bring the contents and significance of this collection to as wide an audience as possible.
I would like to thank Professor Charmian Brinson, Director of Language Studies at Imperial College London, and Professor Richard Dove, Emeritus Professor of German at the University of Greenwich, for the invaluable help and support they have already given me with this project. As well as helping me identify some of the most indecipherable signatures I’ve ever come across, they have enabled me to grasp an understanding of the historical context of this collection through their patient responses to my many questions and their detailed publications on the subject of exile studies, many of which I will refer to in this blog.