The Bob Dylan Archive, comprised of more than 6,000 items spanning nearly the entire length of his career, was acquired by the George Kaiser Family Foundation and The University of Tulsa and is housed at TU’s Helmerich Center for American Research. The materials – nearly all of which have never been viewed or accessed by outside parties – are available to scholars and will soon be curated for public exhibitions in the near future.
An intimate perspective of the artist’s working process can be evidenced in a vast assortment of handwritten song lyrics. Beginning with songs on the 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan, much of the material is heavily revised, annotated and often includes omitted material. Highlights include various drafts of many of Dylan’s creations along with a raft of lesser known song lyrics and fragments.
The collection also includes essays, poems, liner notes, correspondence, autobiographical bits and philosophical musings.
Many of these are associated with Dylan’s mid-1960s efforts while others trace the artist’s work, changing attitudes and personal activity. Another major section of the archive contains notebooks and correspondence. Recording session reports, contracts, sheet music of Dylan’s songs and scores of photographs also populate the collection.
Astoundingly, master tapes of the artist’s entire musical catalog as well as hundreds of hours of film and video material are in the collection, as well as the film originals of Murray Lerner’s Festival! (1965), D.A. Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back (1967), Dylan’s (with Howard Alk and Pennebaker) Eat the Document (1971), Dylan and Alk’s Renaldo & Clara (1978), Martin Scorsese’s Bob Dylan: No Direction Home (2006) and a host of music shorts and videos.
Now, in what will prove to be a boon to Tulsa’s appeal to fans and researchers worldwide, the Bob Dylan Archive permanent home is Tulsa.
Boxes of personal artifacts morph into treasure chest for scholars
Following on the heels of Tulsa’s relatively recent acquisition of the Woody Guthrie Collection, Bob Dylan’s archive stands to make the city an essential location for conducting scholarly popular music research and generating artistic activity. This is fitting, as Guthrie was a significant early inspiration for and influence on Dylan. His long and continuing artistic career strides an ever-changing American environment that touches on many disciplines, and this collection provides a rich source of materials for scholars of popular music, film studies, American studies, history, sociology, political science and cultural studies. Continued biographical, literary and musical research on Dylan will depend on access to this collection by scholars from around the world, and we can anticipate the steady creation of papers, monographs, colloquia, symposia, conferences and classroom studies emanating from this collection.
The examination of “Chimes of Freedom” lyrics scrawled on hotel stationery and dotted with cigarette burns. The dissection of Dylan’s decision to transition from acoustic to electric. The analysis of correspondence between Dylan and beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Each of these are examples of the vast amount of information waiting got be unearthed and research waiting to be conducted.
TU’s Helmerich Center for American Research located on the grounds of Gilcrease Museum, along with the Woody Guthrie Center have positioned Tulsa to become a focal point for scholarly inquiry into American popular music.