Secret Bob Dylan archive to be livin’ on Tulsa time

Bob Zimmerman leads his band the Golden Chords at a 1958 concert at the Hibbing Memorial Building Little Theater in his Iron Range hometown.

Robert Zimmerman, later to become Bob Dylan, leads his band the Golden Chords at a 1958 concert at the Hibbing Memorial Building Little Theater in his Iron Range hometown. (Photo via Monte Edwardson, pictured at left)

Today, the University of Tulsa and iconic musician Bob Dylan announced that a new archive of Dylan’s lyrics and papers would have a new home at the Oklahama college. The works will be housed not far from collection from that state’s famous son and Dylan’s early hero Woody Guthrie.

The move comes as a surprise to many, for Dylan and Tulsa seem to have no other connection than Guthrie. Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota, and raised an hour north in Hibbing. He briefly attended college and played music in Minneapolis before heading to New York where he first broke out under a new name: Bob Dylan.

Here’s an excerpt from the UT press release:


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, for subsequent public exhibition in the city’s burgeoning Brady Arts District, it was jointly announced Wednesday by GKFF Executive Director Ken Levit and TU President Steadman Upham. Comprised of more than 6,000 items spanning nearly 60 years of Bob Dylan’s unique artistry, singular career and worldwide cultural significance, the archive includes decades of 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.

While it would have been logistically impossible to house such an exhibit in Dylan’s hometown of Hibbing, or even his birthplace of Duluth, one would have thought Minneapolis or New York would be more logical places for such a collection.

The alliance of GKFF and TU was chosen by Dylan’s representatives over other suitors vying for this historic collection, and both entities view the archive as an important acquisition for Tulsa in many ways. As Levit explained, “Bob Dylan is a national treasure whose work continues to enrich the lives of millions the world over, and we are proud to be bringing such an important, comprehensive and culturally significant archive to Tulsa. Our combined philanthropic and academic approach made a strong case for assuring Mr. Dylan and his representatives that Tulsa would provide the ideal environment to care for and exhibit this collection, and the result is a boon for Tulsa that will soon attract Bob Dylan fans and scholars to our city from around the world.”

It’s clear that the University of Tulsa is planning on an influx of Dylan scholars, even using the term “Dylanology,” which comes from David Kinney’s 2014 book “The Dylanologists.”

“The University of Tulsa is pleased to collaborate with the George Kaiser Family Foundation in assuming the role of steward for this invaluable collection. Because of the level of scholarship available through the university and its partners, TU is the perfect keeper of the Bob Dylan Archive,” said TU President Steadman Upham. “Dylanology is a growing aspect of social science and humanities research, and Tulsa will soon become the international epicenter for the academic pursuit of all things Dylan.”

Dylan even offered a quote in the University of Tulsa press release:

Bob Dylan said, “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.”

Maybe Dylan just liked the Guthrie angle, or maybe he just liked the idea of legions of overzealous fans and critics baking in the Oklahoma sun as they overanalyze a bunch of things he found in his attic. You never can tell.


  1. One wonders if enlightening meditations from “Empire Burlesque” or “Knocked Out Loaded”, or cocaine fueled screeds from the mid 70’s will brighten mankind’s day.

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