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Grateful Dead archive gallery opens at UC Santa Cruz

Grateful Dead archive gallery opens at UC Santa Cruz
Deadheads everywhere have a reason to go to the library.

UC Santa Cruz will open a gallery to the public on Friday to display the loads of papers, art and artifacts that make up the university's Grateful Dead archive -- with a free concert to boot.

The redesigned former classroom on the second floor of the university’s McHenry Library, has already been appropriately christened “Dead Central.” And archivist Nicholas Meriwether said he expects “tremendous interest” from fans and scholars alike. 

“The band wasn’t particularly sentimental about their history, but they didn’t need to be,” Meriwether said. “They did a great job surrounding themselves with others who documented it for them.”  

Meriwether came on board as archivist in 2010 as the one historian picked from a pool of more than 400 applicants. He started his work two years after band members Bob Weir and Mickey Hart joined UCSC librarians to announce that they would give their archive to the university.

With the exception of one preview day, Friday will mark the first time members of the public will get to see some of the thousands of the archive's show files, posters, photos and fan correspondence.  

What fans will see at the gallery is less than 1% of the entire collection, which is tucked away on a separate floor, according to Meriwether. It is unclear exactly how many items there are, but more than 200 pieces have been selected for this opening display.

Meriwether said much of the group’s appeal derived from the “bond between band and fan” with a steady dose of improvisation in their music that made “every performance unique.” Over a span of about 25 years, the Dead also developed a loyal group of followers known as Deadheads. 

“It seemed to all of us that the stuff really belongs to the community that supported us for all those years,” Weir is quoted as saying on the UCSC library website. “And Santa Cruz seemed the coziest possible home for it.”

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-- Matt Stevens

Twitter.com/mattstevenslat

Photo: UC Santa Cruz will open a public gallery to exhibit archive items from the Grateful Dead, pictured in this undated file photo. Credit: Reuters

 
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