A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

Money, again!

Marshall McLuhan (November 14, 1980, age 69).  How much are my papers worth?

I’ve had a lot of time to think about my life lately.  This damn stroke has taken my voice away.  Can’t read, can’t write, can’t speak.  Things can get pretty bleak.  I had a thought the other day.  Unfortunately I can’t tell anybody about it.  Well, I can tell you.  I wonder how much money Corinne will be able to get for my books and papers.  I have a lot of stuff here. Why the letters from Pierre Elliot Trudeau alone should be worth a fortune.  And I have letters from everyone – Hubert Humphrey, Bucky Fuller, Duke Ellington, Peter Drucker – you name’em.

Me (December 2009, age 57).  A cool million

In July I spoke with Nicholas Olsberg about his experience valuing McLuhan’s papers (books, letters, photographs, documents, articles) for Corinne McLuhan and the McLuhan family after Marshall McLuhan’s death in December 1980.  He wrote me to explain that “The US offer I brought in for McLuhan in I think late 1982 was close to 1 million in Canadian dollars.  The prime minister’s office – exercising its legal right to match the offer in cash and tax allowances – did so.  I regret that it did not go to Buffalo, the US bidder, where it could have anchored a real program of continuing discourse and research that the national archives [in Ottawa] has no mandate or resources to pursue – and with no investment in the papers no moral compulsion to do so [although] I like what they have on the website.”

Much to think about.  (We are not done with this conversation)

How does McLuhan stack up against the papers of Canadian-born idea people like Northrop Frye, John Kenneth Galbraith, or Hugh MacLennan?  Where do you think McLuhan’s papers should have gone?  Ottawa, Buffalo? Elsewhere?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Nicholas Olsberg, “Memoirs of a Man I Never Met. “ Art and Architecture, issue number 3, 2002? pp 108-111.

Tags: , , ,

Michael Hinton Saturday, December 5th, 2009
Permalink Communication, Vol. 1 1 Comment

1 Comment to Money, again!

  • michael edmunds says:

    Olsberg is correct in his estimation that at Buffalo the papers probably would have formed a place of on-going discourse. Where should the papers have gone! ST. Michael’s College where else? I guess a case could be made for the Robarts as well. Look at Frye’s papers. Housed at Victoria and with a clear mandate of stewardship, research and publications abound from their. There’s an irony that money at UT, St.Mike’s was in short supply as the 80’s was ushering in the digital revolution and computers were sucking up University budgets. The very technoligical shifts McLuhan spoke of were short changing the idea of grabbing his papers.

    However suppose that perhaps money may not have been the sticking point…
    There was little respect for McLuhan either at ST Mike’s or the University itself. Leave the papers out of it. What happened to his program itself? When I view it this way, I wonder then if it is a clear cut case that the papers ought to have remained in Cananda at all. (That they were is due to Teri McLuhan’s intervention.)

    Just as it is said that our talents must leave the country to receive recognition at home, perhaps likewise for the papers. Buffalo may have been the best compromise of all. Far but near. Who cares about those papers of the others? It’s McLuhan ideas and thoughts that are of prime importance.

  • Leave a Reply