by Joe Clancy ’18
Bob Dylan, the backwoods-born, folk-singing, outspoken, and recently awarded Nobel Laureate, continues to build upon his quirks. The latest addition to Dylan’s eccentric story is the creation and opening of an archive dedicated solely to him. Normally, it would seem strange that a musician would have a museum dedicated to himself before he or she dies, but Dylan is by no means normal. At the age of 75, the artist simply proves that genius ought to be awarded no matter the time, genre, or age.
The Bob Dylan Archive, located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is now open to researchers wishing to learn more about the artist and growing legend. The archive will soon feature a more public venue, but for now features over 6,000 artifacts collected from various points in Dylan’s life. This includes a variety of primary sources such as lyrics, photographs, contracts, private letters, and both video and audio recordings.
For those who wish to write scholarly criticism on the artist, these resources are precious. Randall Fuller, a professor of English at Tulsa University, plans to utilize the archive in his project of writing a book on the relationship between Dylan and African-American music. “The Bob Dylan Archive is an invaluable resource for this project,” he said. “I’m discovering so many revelations in the songwriter’s exploration of blues, gospel and soul forms. Without access to the archive, my book would be all but impossible.”
According to the archive’s curator, Michael Chaiken, the audio and film reels would take about 113 days to watch and listen to consecutively. All of it though, Chaiken says, is valuable. For the curator, the outtakes from the recording studio were particularly rewarding to hear. “He’s like a Miles Davis character…,” he says, “there’s so much improvisation going on and moving things around, trying to find the rhythm.”
The very location of the archive seems to capture the artist’s off-beat nature. Many are still confused as to why Dylan would have his works brought to Tulsa when the city is not overtly important to the artist nor is it home to an Ivy League school. Dylan was born in Duluth, Minnesota and gained the majority of his fame in New York City, so the choice of Tulsa left many scratching their heads.
That, however, is part of the legacy of the voice of a generation. Dylan has always avoided convention and will always provoke his audience to ask, “why?” The archive may prove to answer some questions about him, but it seems there will always be more Dylan to be discovered and understood.