3 Reasons Bob Dylan’s Center in Tulsa Matters
More … than 100,000 Bob Dylan’s notebooks and artifacts – even those unknown to the most dedicated fans – have now found their way to the University of Tulsa (TU) in Oklahoma. The private research university has announced that fans of the singer will soon have a new shrine: The TU Institute for Bob Dylan Studies.
The archive will go on permanent display in Tulsa near a museum dedicated to American folk music singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie. Dylan says the interdisciplinary research initiative that he is happy that the archives of his six-decade career have now found their place: “For me, this makes a lot of sense and it is a great honor.
But why the co-founders Sean Latham (Director of the TU Institute for Bob Dylan Studies) and Brian Hosmer (Professor and chair of the history department at Oklahoma State University) launches the center at 2017? What is the importance of studying an American singer?
1. He is a Nobel Prize winner
The folk singer is considered a major figure in pop culture and one of the greatest songwriters of all time. Dylan securing a Nobel Prize in Literature “for creating new poetic expressions in the great American song tradition” attests to this – his songs not only became classics, they spawned a new field of study called “Dylanology.”
“Dylanology is a growing aspect of research in the social sciences and humanities, and Tulsa will soon become the international epicenter for the academic pursuit of all things Dylan,” said TU President Steadman Upham. told PR Newswire.
TU isn’t the only university that teaches Dylan – Professor Emeritus of English Lou Renza has been teaching the musician to his students for years at Dartmouth College.
“What I love about teaching Dylan to undergrads is that the songs have meaning for their life stage. Questioning life and death, that’s why I came to literature. Students have not yet professionalized. They are still forming their visions. Dylan also questions life. He keeps wondering what he’s doing. It’s as legitimate as anything Emerson or any other writer in American literature has done,” Renza explained to Dartmouth Alumni Magazine.
2. It encourages research and celebrates the creative
The institute aims to explore “the work, influence, life and legacy of the Nobel Prize-winning artist and his world”, according to the website. Since its inception, the Bob Dylan Center has hosted a number of conferences and events such as a symposium on “Dylan in the classroom,” a Bob Dylan Summit, and has even held conferences led by leading music writers as well as scholars.
In 2019the institute hosted an international conference titled “Bob Dylan’s World“where hundreds of scholars, critics, musicians, fans and experts from around the world gathered to play three days simply celebrating the songwriter’s creative exploration and reinvention of American music.
The goal? So that the institute to position yourself as the new home of Dylanology, drawing students and faculty to the archives and fostering world-class research. When it comes to audiences, the center can help pave the way for more people to gain insight into and understand the rich musical culture of the city of Tulsa.
The organization shared on its website that they received great feedback from the first conference, indicating a strong possibility that a professional – and international – network united by an interest in Dylan’s work could take shape. Elected board members will then work hard to ensure they build a rich sense of community while “develop a robust research infrastructure designed to support the work of its members”.
3. The research center protects the legacy of the icon
Although Dylan goes on tour regularly and appears to be in good health, he is still 81 years old. What good is revolutionary songwriting if it can’t be found? This is exactly why the Bob Dylan Center was started – to protect and preserve the singer’s legacy from being lost in time.
The 29,000 square foot facility on two floors will provide Dylanologists with access to a step-by-step, word-by-word map of how Dylan wrote songs. The New York Times reported that the center is filled with rare items such as Dylan’s leather jacket from the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and a photograph of the singer at age 16, posing with a guitar at a Jewish summer camp in Wisconsin.
There is even a digital display which lets you sift through 10 of the 17 known drafts of the 1983 hit “Jokerman.” Screenshots show the typed and handwritten changes the 42-year-old made through the scripts, from lyrics like “You’re a son of angels/You’re a man of clouds” to “You’re a man of mountains/You can walk on clouds”.