One very important archival development – for a very popular niche – has just been announced, as “the Bob Dylan Archive has been acquired by the George Kaiser Family Foundation and The University of Tulsa and will be permanently housed in Tulsa, under the stewardship of TU’s Helmerich Center for American Research.” This archive is already “being digitized and preserved by a digital curation team for eventual public exhibition and academic access.”
According to the announcement, the Archive consists of “more than 6,000 items spanning nearly 60 years of Bob Dylan’s unique artistry, singular career and worldwide cultural significance,” collected from his own private holdings and including “never-before-seen handwritten manuscripts, notebooks and correspondence; films, videos, photographs and artwork; memorabilia and ephemera; personal documents and effects; unreleased studio and concert recordings; musical instruments and many other items.” You can only imagine what Dylan fans might think of the promise of “unreleased studio and concert recordings.” Further details are available in a detailed preview in the New York Times., and at the Archive’s own dedicated website, here.
Bob Dylan himself said in the announcement, “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.”
Lest anyone doubt the literary significance, as well as broader cultural value, of this acquisition, Christopher Ricks, former professor of English at Cambridge, and professor of humanities at Boston, is only one of the many prominent critics, academics, and writers, who have, in the NYT‘s words, assisted in Dylan’s canonization as “not just a musical icon but also an American literary giant.” Ricks argued on more than one occasion that Dylan deserves to be honored as one of the greatest English-language poets of all time.
Treasures in the archive include “a notebook from 1974 containing Dylan’s handwritten lyrics to songs that were eventually recorded for the artist’s biggest-selling album, Blood On The Tracks, including Tangled Up In Blue, Simple Twist Of Fate and Idiot Wind,” and “sketches, writings and edits from Tarantula, Dylan’s 1965 groundbreaking collection of experimental poetry.” According to the announcement, “the process of physically acquiring the complete archive will span two years,” but nearly 1000 items “have already been brought to the Hardesty Archival Center inside the university’s Helmerich Center for American Research.” The final assembly of the Archive into “a permanent exhibit space for the archive … near the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa’s Brady Arts District” should provide quite an essay in contemporary curatorship – as well as creating a new monument in modern American culture.