In 2023, the Ayn Rand Archives produced two exhibits for ARI’s conferences in Athens and Miami, bringing Ayn Rand’s papers, marginalia, and ephemera to hundreds of in-person attendees.
At AynRandCon-Europe in Athens, digital archivist Audra Hilse displayed a showcase of reproduced documents spotlighting Rand’s appreciation for ancient Greek philosophy in general and Aristotle in particular. “Man came into his own in Greece, some two-and-a-half thousand years ago,” said Rand in the June 1970 issue of The Objectivist. “The birth of philosophy marked his adulthood.”
Conference events and lectures were held at the remains of the Lyceum, Aristotle’s school of philosophy from the fourth century BC and historic artifacts contextualized the importance of Aristotle to the development of Rand’s thinking.
One of the items featured was a reproduction of Rand’s marginal notes from Memoirs of a Superfluous Man by Albert Jay Nock, which is the source translation of her oft-repeated quote from Aristotle that history “represents things only as they are, while fiction represents them as they might be and ought to be.” Rand frequently inscribed vertical lines in the margins adjacent to text of which she approved, and this is the only known instance from her library where Rand used five lines for the same passage.
The exhibit included several of Rand’s letters mentioning Aristotle, such as a letter to producer Hal Wallis indicating that she had started her six-month vacation by purchasing a copy of The Basic Works of Aristotle by Richard McKeon.
Three months later, at the Objectivist summer conference in Miami, attendees were treated to 80 Years of “The Fountainhead,” an exhibit celebrating the anniversary of the novel’s publication.
Surrounding the exhibit space were twelve large photographs reprinted on stretched canvas. The pictures, taken by renowned architecture photographer Julius Shulman at Ayn Rand’s home in 1947, captured some of Rand’s architectural and design tastes and provided attendees a chance to view the house where much of Atlas Shrugged was written.
Alongside these photographs were three display cases of artifacts, including several original documents from the Ayn Rand Papers. Of special interest were Rand’s original handwritten notes from December 1935 on “Second-Hand Lives,” the original title of The Fountainhead.
Another display showcased Fountainhead-related newspaper clippings saved by Rand, such as her favorite review of the novel, by Lorine Pruette of the New York Times. Published at a time when Rand was frustrated with her publisher’s marketing strategy, and when reviewers (even those who gave a positive appraisal) were displaying no understanding of the novel’s theme, Pruette’s review was remarkable for its recognition of Rand’s theme of individualism versus collectivism.
The exhibit also provided context for the OCON screening of the 1949 film adaptation of The Fountainhead. Attendees were treated to an array of behind-the-scenes promotional photos taken on set, including one of Rand with the film’s stars, Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal.
As part of the Ayn Rand Institute’s efforts to bring renewed attention to the wealth of historical information housed in the Archives, next year’s Objectivist conference in Anaheim, California, will feature yet another exhibit that illuminates the work of Ayn Rand through a display of original artifacts.