Making ‘Mad Men’

By Svitlana Hrabovsky

Matthew Weiner, writer, director, and producer of Mad Men. Photo by David Shankbone, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In honor of the upcoming premiere of the series finale of Mad Men, the Museum of the Moving Image–nestled in the cozy NYC neighborhood of Astoria, Queens–installed an exhibit dedicated to the show. The exhibit focuses primarily on the attention to detail that goes into creating such a renowned series; its last season is set to air on Apr 5.

After ascending the stairs leading to the exhibit, visitors are greeted by a glass table, filled with a plethora of scribbled, almost illegible notes. The jottings, printed on everything from ripped up scraps to Mad Men stationary, belong to none other than Matthew Weiner: the writer, director, and producer of the critically acclaimed series.

Weiner’s notes feature added lines, scene edits, and erased details; they portray the difficult creative process that he goes through. These items are intricately placed throughout the exhibit and their ubiquity resembles the amount of work it takes to be able to imitate a past era so eloquently.

The sincere attention to detail put into creating this exhibit is amazing. One installation is a replica of the production office of the show’s creative team. The desk is scattered with notes, folders, a Macbook, and various other little trinkets–allowing spectators to imagine a day in the life of a producer. The office also features a library full of books such as 1968 In America, The 50s, and On our Own, America in the 60s, revealing the team’s serious research process.

Photo by Svitlana Hrabovsky.

Progressing further into the Mad Men exhibit feels like going deeper into Weiner’s psyche–transitioning slowly from the surface into the depths of his creativity. His scribbled notes and personal research material render his importance throughout the museum space, which is full of costumes, sets, props, advertising art, video clips, and various design boards (featuring anything from furniture to makeup).

The exhibit replicates the show not just in its display of materials from set, but also in its earnest characterization of the ‘60s. Overhead, ‘60s-era lights illuminate set props; funky advertisements adorn the walls throughout; tableware is casually placed around displays; and in the background, a ‘60s tune is set on replay.

Photo by Svitlana Hrabovsky.

“It smells like 1965 in there”, announces a passerby as he moves from the costumes over to the set replica of Don Draper’s very own kitchen.

For Mad Men fans, the exhibit offers deep insight into the reality of necessary time commitment and devotion that make the show so successful. For those simply curious to see what all the commotion is about, they can observe authentic period pieces and learn about their relation to the show.

If anything, the Mad Men exhibit aids in inspiring, as it takes you on a journey into the deep creative process of a distinguished, talented contemporary writer.

Matthew Weiner’s ‘Mad Men’ exhibit will be on display at New York City’s Museum of the Moving Image until Jun 14.