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New $10 Million Bob Dylan Center Opens in Tulsa

Samantha Franco
(Photo Credit: Val Wilmer/Redferns)

Officially open to the public as of May 10, the new Bob Dylan Center celebrating the musician and his lifetime of work features interactive exhibits and rare, never-before-seen artifacts. The center’s hope is not only to showcase the artist’s incredible life and music career but also to encourage an open debate among expert and novice Dylan fans.

The grand opening

Dylan fans gathered on Tuesday morning to celebrate the public opening of the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At the ceremony, a chamber orchestra performed an arrangement of Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and Agalisiga Mackey performed Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” in the Cherokee language, accompanied by a dobro, harmonica, and mandolin. The Bob Dylan Center’s first Artist-in-Residence, Joy Harjo, also read a piece titled “Tangled” inspired by Dylan’s 1975 song, “Tangled Up in Blue.”

Located in Tulsa

Exterior view of the Bob Dylan Center

Exterior view of the Bob Dylan Center on May 07, 2022 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo Credit: Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Bob Dylan Center)

Back in 2016, the George Kaiser Family Foundation and the University of Tulsa acquired the Bob Dylan archives for $20 million. Since then, the Kaiser Foundation has purchased the university’s share and the museum-like center was formed to display those items in an interactive and explorative way.

The center is located at one end of a century-old industrial brick building in downtown Tulsa and features a photograph of Dylan taken by Jerry Schatzberg in 1965. The center shares a building with the Woody Guthrie Center, dedicated to the American singer-songwriter who just so happens to be an early hero of Dylan’s, making the location a perfect fit.

Exhibits

Gallery space

A general view of the atmosphere in a gallery space at The Bob Dylan Center on May 07, 2022 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo Credit: Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Bob Dylan Center)

Many of the exhibits at the Bob Dylan Center are intended to be diverse and interactive. Paperwork, films, recordings, photographs, books, musical instruments, and other trinkets number over 100,000 in this archival collection, and the center plans to put many of them on display for mega-fans and curious audiences so they can experience these rare pieces of history.

A fan checking out exhibits

A general view of the atmosphere in a gallery space at The Bob Dylan Center on May 07, 2022 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo Credit: Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Bob Dylan Center)

One notable exhibit includes a digital display projecting animated images from three of Dylan’s journals onto what looks like an open book, flipping through the pages to give viewers a glimpse into the notes and scribbles of the artist himself. Another includes a duffel bag full of fan mail from 1966 which has a number of envelopes that Dylan never opened.

Dylan doesn’t look back

Photo of Bob Dylan performing at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards

Bob Dylan performing onstage during The 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on February 13, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo Credit: Kevin Mazur / WireImage / Getty Images)

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Although the entire center is dedicated to showcasing all of the different works and artifacts from Dylan’s life and music career, Dylan himself has not engaged with the center. Outside of having made some early contributions to the archive, such as one of his ironwork gates for the center’s entryway, Dylan has not been involved with the Bob Dylan Center whatsoever. He is known to not be one who looks back on the past.