The newly created University of Tulsa Institute for Bob Dylan Studies hosted a summit meeting on Saturday, October 28th that brought together local arts and cultural leaders to discuss the arrival of The Bob Dylan Archive® in Tulsa. The event began with an exclusive look at some rare materials, and a reverential silence descended as summit attendees poured over working drafts of song lyrics, cover designs, and even the leather jacket that Dylan wore when he plugged his black Fender Stratocaster into an amp at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and shook the musical world. The Helmerich Center for American Research at Gilcrease Museum now holds these materials and they are available for use by approved scholars.
The summit itself began with some broad questions about why Dylan’s work is so important and about how his songs and their legacy can be effectively preserved and shared—not just in the next few years, but in the decades to come. Institute co-directors Sean Latham and Brian Hosmer moderated the discussion, along with Michael Chaiken, the Archive’s chief curator, Susan Neal, Executive Director of Gilcrease, and Steve Higgins from the George Kaiser Family Foundation. The conversations were wide-ranging but cohered around the many different opportunities for partnership and collaboration the Dylan materials offered through connections to Tulsa’s rich musical history as well as established and emerging institutions like the Woody Guthrie Center, the Route 66 Experience, and OKPOP.
Our partners stressed the importance of tourism, concerts, and programming along with opportunities to integrate Dylan’s work into local and national educational initiatives. The Institute, in fact, will host a special symposium called Dylan in the Classroom on February 9-10. This event will feature local teachers in conversation with national experts gathered in Tulsa to talk about the ways the singer-songwriter’s work can be integrated into all levels of curricula, from elementary music classes and middle-school social studies to college literature courses. The event will feature talks and panels as well as workshops and brainstorming sessions that can then be shared to a national audience.
The TU Institute for Bob Dylan Studies is only one piece of a much larger collaboration that includes The Bob Dylan Archive® and The Bob Dylan Center™. The latter is still in the planning stages, but will eventually become the public face of all these efforts here in Tulsa. The summit meeting made clear that we are only just at the start of imagining the enormous possibilities for programming, education, and research made possible by the arrival of this extraordinary treasure.