The widely anticipated Bob Dylan Center will open to the public on May 10, 2022, in downtown Tulsa, appropriately just a few feet from the Woody Guthrie Center. Early in his career, Dylan was a musical disciple of Guthrie, a folk-music icon.
According to the announcement Wednesday from the center’s website, the facility devoted to the highly influential songwriter will exhibit more than 100,000 items owned by Dylan over seven decades, including original manuscripts, unreleased recordings, unseen film performances, photographs and more.
The BDC will feature cutting-edge and immersive technology in a multimedia environment that is designed to be as impressive and revealing to visitors new to Dylan’s work as it will be to long-time fans and aficionados.
Among the many highlights that will be found at The Bob Dylan Center are:
— An ever-evolving curated display of elements that illuminate the depth and breadth of the Bob Dylan Archive® collection.
— An immersive film experience that will initiate visitors through an innovative cascade of archival music and film, directed by renowned Dylan chronicler Jennifer Lebeau.
— A recreation of an authentic studio environment where visitors will experience what it was like to be present at one of Dylan’s historic recording sessions.
— The Columbia Records Gallery, which will provide an in-depth look at the creation, performance and production of timeless Dylan songs such as “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Tangled Up in Blue” and “Chimes of Freedom.”
— A screening room that will showcase Dylan-related scripted films, documentaries and concert performances, including never-before-seen material unearthed from the Archive.
— A multimedia timeline of Dylan’s life from his early years in Minnesota through the present day, written by award-winning historian Sean Wilentz.
— The Parker Brothers Gallery, which will explore the creative process through the work of other innovative artists, in an initial exhibit curated by influential author Lewis Hyde.
One sterling example of the treasures to be found in The Bob Dylan Archive is a recording of Dylan performing “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” in the autumn of 1962. This heretofore-unknown recording was made by Milton (Mell) and Lillian Bailey, friends and early champions of the young Bob Dylan when he was a fixture in New York’s Greenwich Village folk scene. This version of the song, recorded in the Baileys’ apartment at 185 East 3rd St., features alternate lyrics and is the earliest known recording of the song that was eventually released in 1963 on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Another example is a recently unearthed image of Bob Dylan onstage during his 1974 tour with The Band, taken by renowned photographer Barry Feinstein.
The Tulsa-based George Kaiser Family Foundation acquired Dylan’s archive in 2016. Media outlets that included Rolling Stone reported the foundation paid between $15 million and $20 million for the collection, which filled two semi-trucks.
The Kaiser group also acquired the Guthrie archive in 2011.
Dylan perhaps is best known for his worldwide hit single from 1965, “Like a Rolling Stone.” He probably is the most influential songwriter of the second half of the 20th century. Years ago, a pop-music reference book argued he was one of a handful of people responsible for ending the Vietnam War.
Guthrie’s links to Route 66 are many. But links to the Mother Road and Dylan are scant. Early in his career, Dylan claimed to have spent part of his childhood in the Route 66 town of Gallup, New Mexico. That probably was Dylan messing around with a reporter; he actually grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota.
In terms of highways, Dylan was more associated with U.S. 61. That highway went through his hometown, and he recorded the well-known “Highway 61 Revisited” for a now-classic album of the same name in 1965.
The Dylan Center will be only about three blocks from the old Route 66 alignment of Second Street/Detroit Avenue in downtown Tulsa.
(Artist’s rendering of the forthcoming Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa via Facebook)