Fans Get First Look at the Grateful Dead Archives in Santa Cruz

It's been a long strange trip and Deadheads paid between $250 and $25,000 to view 46 years of memorabilia at its new home at the University of California at Santa Cruz's McHenry Library.

The members of the Grateful Dead played all kinds of venues in 46 years of touring, from Woodstock to the Pyramids.

But Saturday the Dead filled its first library and no one told fans to shush.

The University of California at Santa Cruz unveiled for the first time the archive of the Bay Area band that characterized the 1960s and continues to spread peace, love and the music of that era today.

There were no scalpers out front, but they could have made a killing with tickets priced between $250 and $25,000 to see the archive first. Guests also heard a Dead cover band and fraternized with the likes of Jerry Garcia's daughter, Trixie, artist Stanley Mouse, photographer Jay Blakesberg, former band road manager Rock Scully and band biographer and publicist Dennis McNally.

They also got a poster signed by Stanley Mouse commemorating the event and a beautiful hard cover book called The Attics of Our Lives, about the band and its collection.

"The Grateful Dead Archive represents one of the most significant popular cultural collections of the 20th century; UC Santa Cruz is honored to receive this invaluable gift," said UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal, when it was announced in 2008. "The Grateful Dead and UC Santa Cruz are both highly innovative institutions-born the same year-that continue to make a major, positive impact on the world."

The archive includes business records and correspondence, photographs, and show files with tickets and backstage passes--as well as promotional items such as flyers, posters, shirts, press clips,  awards, recordings, concert photos and unreleased videos of interviews and TV appearances as well as Deadhead fan mail and gifts.

It will have an Internet component soon. So far, there is information online here.

The room called Dead Central was open for the first and only time this year Saturday. The room was emptied by 2 a.m. and is scheduled to be opened permanently April 21.

UC Santa Cruz won the display over other applicants, such as UC Berkeley, because it promised to make it prominent and because it doesn't have as many collections as older and bigger campuses, it can do so said David Sonnenberg, assistant Dean of Planning and Resources Mangement.

At one point the remaining members of the band considered building their own museum, but opted to donate the memorabilia to a school where it could aid in studies instead.

On display were handwritten notes on songs by Jerry Garcia, original artwork by poster artist Stanley Mouse, original concert posters, relics of the first LSD tests, at which the Dead were the house band and a sculpture of Jerry Garcia's hand, with its missing two-thirds of his middle finger.

The sculpture was commissioned by Scott Brittingham, a Santa Barbara Deadhead whose family foundation supports educational causes.

"This is my way of giving back to a family that has given a lot to me," said Brittingham, 50, who commissioned a much larger bronze version of the hand that is on display at the Santa Barbara Bowl's Jerry Garcia Glen.

Archivist Nicholas G. Meriwether said he has the next 12 years of exhibits already planned out. The exhibit will rotate twice a year.

The Dead started out in 1965. Founder Jerry Garcia died in 1995, but other members including bassist Phil Lesh, guitarist Bob Weir and drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann still tour in various ensembles.

Meriwether compiled a 2007 book about the Dead called All Graceful Instruments: The Contexts of the Grateful Dead Phenomen, that looked at the band through disciplines such as business, philosophy, sociology and music theory. It showed there was serious subject for study, no less so than the great literary figures.

A former oral historian at the University of South Carolina, he said his biggest challenge was making a case for spending money on the collection at a time when the state's university system is in financial peril.

His argument in support of it, he said, is that "this has a lot to teach about the counterculture and the history of the 1960s."

Dean Sonnenberg agreed.

"The Dead, the spirit of the Dead – the freedom and collaboration – is what this campus is about to this day. I see it as an integral part of the campus's future. It's going to bring more people to come to the campus and bring the campus more recognition. I think there will be a lot of events that occur here because of the archive."


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