Bob Dylan museum to open in Oklahoma

Elvis Costello, Patti Smith and Mavis Staples will travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma this weekend for the opening of the Bob Dylan Center, the museum and archive celebrating the legacy of the Nobel Prize winner for literature.

In his own way, Dylan will not be present, unless it occurs to him to surprise everyone.

The musician is openly invited to come to the center at any time, though his absence suits his character perfectly, said Steven Jenkins, the center’s director. Adding to the weirdness of the situation, Dylan was in Tulsa just three weeks ago for a date on his tour, between his shows in Oklahoma City and Little Rock, Arkansas. But he didn’t ask to see the center.

“I don’t want to put words in his mouth,” Jenkins said. “I can only imagine that he thought it might be embarrassing for him.”

It is definitely unusual for a living public figure like Dylan, who turns 81 on May 24, to have a museum dedicated to him, but such is the impact he has had on popular music since he began his career at the turn of the decade. 1960. He still works and performs live in a show dedicated mainly to his latest material.

And he keeps trying to break boundaries. “Murder Most Foul,” Dylan’s nearly 17-minute song about the Kennedy assassination and fame, released in 2020, is as surprising as “Like a Rolling Stone” was in its time nearly half a century ago, even though he is no longer in the thick of pop culture.

The center offers an immersive cinematic experience, a space for live performances, a studio where visitors can play producer and “mix” different instrumentation elements into Dylan songs, as well as a curated tour where people can embark on a musical journey through the different stages of his career. The archive has more than 100,000 objects, many of which are available only to scholars by appointment.

The museum’s creators said they wanted to build an experience for both casual visitors who may not know much about Dylan’s work and true fans — those who wear straw hats, swimmers and content-divers, the museum said. designer Alan Maskin of the firm Olson Kundig.

The museum hopes to celebrate creative processes in general, and at the opening there will be an exhibition of the work of photographer Jerry Schatzberg, whose image of Dylan in 1965 is displayed on the museum’s three-story façade.

As Dylan continues to create, “we’re going to keep updating” him, Jenkins said.

Dylan was born and raised in Minnesota, rose to musical fame in New York and now lives in California, how did the museum dedicated to his life and work end up in Oklahoma?

He has never seemed like a nostalgic type, but Dylan recognized that his work could have historical interest and value. Along with his team, he set aside boxes full of memorabilia, including photographs, rare recordings and handwritten lyrics, showing that his songs have gone through revisions and rewriting.

Using those songwriting archives, two of the first exhibits will focus on how the songs “Jokerman” and “Tangled Up in Blue” came to be — the second with lyrics so elastic that Dylan was still changing verses after the song had been released. .

Dylan sold his archive in 2016 to the Tulsa-based George Kaiser Family Foundation, which also operates the Woody Guthrie Center — a museum celebrating one of Dylan’s musical heroes, located just steps from the new Dylan Center.

Dylan likes the Guthrie Museum, and he also appreciates the rich collections of American Indian art in Tulsa, Jenkins said. Much of this is on display in another new facility, the Gilcrease Museum, which is also the largest collection of art in the American West.

“I think it will be a real tourist attraction for Tulsa for all the right reasons,” said Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum. “This is one of the great musicians in the history of mankind and everyone who wants to study his career and see the evolution of his talent will be drawn to him.”

Bynum hopes it will also encourage other celebrities who might one day want to put their archives on display, and turn Tulsa into a center for the study of modern American music.

Dylan designed and built a 4.8 meter (16 ft) metal sculpture placed at the entrance to the museum. Other than that, he had nothing to do with the design of the museum and declined, through a spokesman, to comment on the opening.

“If Bob was telling us what we can and can’t do, it would have felt like a vanity project,” Maskin said. “It was a tremendous relief not having to satisfy Bob Dylan.”

Despite this, it can be assumed that communication is open if necessary: ​​Jenkins, the center’s director, is the brother of Larry Jenkins, who was longtime Dylan’s press officer.

In addition to a dinner to celebrate the opening this weekend, Costello, Smith and Staples will perform separate concerts at Tulsa’s Cain’s Ballroom. Costello was asked to schedule a jukebox that will be on display at the museum, and within a day, he sent in his suggestions for 160 Dylan songs and covers, Steven Jenkins said.

The Bob Dylan Center will be open to the public beginning May 10.

Maskin has no expectations that Dylan will get to see the designer’s work. But he indulges in the fantasy that on a calm summer day, with a security guard dozing in a corner, someone in black jeans, sunglasses, and a familiar messy mane walks between the rooms.

“To be honest, I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said. “I think he’s interested in the work he’s doing, not the work he’s done.”


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