More than 6,000 items of Bob Dylan memorabilia — such as handwritten lyrics to Tangled Up In Blue and his first contract with a music publisher — have found a home in Oklahoma near a museum honouring one of his major influences, folk singer Woody Guthrie.
The archives from Dylan’s six-decade career, acquired by the George Kaiser Family Foundation and the University of Tulsa for between $15 million (Dh55 million) and $20 million, also include early recordings from 1959 and a wallet that contains Johnny Cash’s former address and phone number.
Dylan, who’s originally from Minnesota, said he’s glad the archives found a home and the Tulsa location makes a lot of sense, “to be included with the works of Woody Guthrie and especially alongside all the valuable artefacts from the Native American Nations.”
A few items were already on display on Wednesday at the Gilcrease Museum, including Dylan’s cigarette-stained lyrics to Chimes of Freedom on stationary from the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Toronto and early iterations of Visions of Johanna written on sheets from a yellow legal pad.
“The only damage is Bob’s coffee stains and cigarette stains,” said Michael Chaiken, the inaugural curator of the collection.
Nearly 1,000 items have arrived so far at the university’s Helmerich Centre for American Research, which is affiliated with the city’s Gilcrease Museum. Transferring the entire archive will take up to two years.
The trove of memorabilia will be permanently housed at the museum, but curated exhibits will eventually be on display in Tulsa’s Brady Arts District, near the museum honouring the Oklahoma-born Guthrie that opened in 2013.
Guthrie’s archives had been acquired by the George Kaiser Family Foundation in 2011 for $3 million, and the Woody Guthrie Centre is the centrepiece of a now-thriving area of the city.
Landing Guthrie’s archives in Tulsa laid the groundwork for the Dylan archive acquisition, University of Tulsa president Steadman Upham said on Wednesday.
“Getting Woody back to Oklahoma created a foundation that began to explore the rich musical history of this city,” he said. “I believe it was all those things together. Bob Dylan did not want this to be another thing on the shelf; he wanted this to be special.”
Chaiken said Tulsa’s reputation as a working-class city and a crossroads for several genres of music make it an ideal choice to house Dylan’s archive rather than much larger cities and institutions that lobbied for the acquisition.