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On This Day in Music… March 2, 2016: Bob Dylan Sells Personal Archive to the University of Tulsa

The collection now spans 100,000 items including handwritten lyrics and master tapes and is located at a dedicated Bob Dylan Center in the city.

bob dylan
Source: mega

Dylan's archive is now housed alongside Woody Guthrie's.

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On March 2, 2016, Bob Dylan announced that he had sold his huge personal archive of notes, poems, draft lyrics, artwork, photographs, video and master tapes to the University of Tulsa, where they would be made available to scholars, as well as curated for public exhibitions.

The initial tranche of 6,000 items spanned nearly 60 years of Dylan’s artistic endeavors, and encompassed many never-before-seen handwritten manuscripts, including the lyrics to “Chimes of Freedom” scrawled on notepaper from the Waldorf Astoria, Toronto, marked with annotations and extra verses and dotted with cigarette burns. There were also unreleased studio and concert recordings, musical instruments and his 1962 signed contract with Witmark Music, his first music publisher.

Among these more obvious items, however, were many peculiarities surely only of interest to the most dedicated Dylanologist. As well as the notebooks, sketches, lyrics and recordings was his wallet from 1966 containing a scrap of paper with Johnny Cash’s address and personal phone number and a business card from Otis Redding, the leather jacket he wore onstage at the Newport Folk Festival the year he went electric, and part of the internal workings of the piano on which he composed “Like a Rolling Stone”.

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Dylan with Joan Baez in 1963.

Speaking for the George Kaiser Family Foundation, who acquired the archive for the University, Executive Director Ken Levit said at the time: “Bob Dylan is a national treasure whose work continues to enrich the lives of millions the world over, and we are proud to be bringing such an important, comprehensive and culturally significant archive to Tulsa. Our combined philanthropic and academic approach made a strong case for assuring Mr. Dylan and his representatives that Tulsa would provide the ideal environment to care for and exhibit this collection, and the result is a boon for Tulsa that will soon attract Bob Dylan fans and scholars to our city from around the world.”

Dylan himself commented: “I’m glad that my archives, which have been collected all these years, have finally found a home and are to be included with the works of Woody Guthrie and especially alongside all the valuable artifacts from the Native American Nations. To me it makes a lot of sense and it's a great honor.”

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bob dylan on tour
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Access to the archive is by appointment only and limited to 'individuals with qualified research projects.'

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The archive has since expanded considerably – so much so that a whole dedicated Bob Dylan Center has been built to house it in Tulsa. Describing its role as to “inspire and celebrate fearless creativity by exploring the music and artistry of the Nobel Prize–winning singer-songwriter as a catalyst for personal expression and cultural change,” amongst the Center’s 100,000-strong archives are the master tapes of Dylan’s entire musical catalog. It also offers “public programs, performances, lectures, and publications, through which it aims to foster a conversation about the role of creativity in our lives.”

Unfortunately for any casual visitors wishing to foster a conversation about the role of creativity in their lives, however, the really juicy parts of the archive remain out of public sight, with the Center’s website warning: “While the Center offers a curated exhibit of items from the collection, the archive itself is open by appointment only. Due to high demand, access to the archive is only granted to individuals with qualified research projects.”


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