Rock & Roll Hall of Fame exhibit draws from UCSC Grateful Dead Archive

UCSC Library loans nearly 100 items to new major exhibit opening April 12 as part of 2012 Rock Hall of Fame Induction Week

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum building in Cleveland (above). The Grateful Dead exhibition will run from April 12 to December 12 (below). (Images courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum)
Promotional poster for American Beauty by Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley, (C) GDP/Rhino. (Courtesy of UC Santa Cruz Grateful Dead Archive).
Photo of The Grateful Dead, 1969. (C) Herb Greene (Courtesy of the UC Santa Cruz Grateful Dead Archive)

On April 12, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum will launch a major exhibition titled Grateful Dead: The Long, Strange Trip as part of its 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Week events.

Situated on two floors of the seven-floor, 150,000 square-foot museum in Cleveland, the exhibition will feature a significant number of items on loan from The Grateful Dead Archive at the University of California-Santa Cruz.

“There are about 90 items from the Grateful Dead Archive included in the exhibition,” noted Howard Kramer, the Hall of Fame's Director of Curatorial Affairs.

“There are business documents (Warner Bros. Records contract renewal letter, recording session tracking sheets); handwritten lyric manuscripts (including Sugaree, Box of Rain and Truckin’); original artwork (Stanley Mouse paintings from the back cover of Workingman’s Dead); and props used in videos,” he added.

The exhibition will include an unprecedented collection of original artwork that is immediately recognizable from the band’s album covers and posters, as well as numerous instruments used by the Grateful Dead over the years, and elements from the band’s legendary Wall of Sound PA system.

“The Grateful Dead is a band that is identified with a remarkable era in American history, and, inasmuch as they embody that era, their work is timeless,” noted Jim Henke, who began his career at Rolling Stone magazine and is now Vice President of Exhibits and Curatorial Affairs for the Hall of Fame.

“They’ve inspired many performers and bands, but none has exhibited their musical depth and cultural resonance. In a 30-year career, this group wrote their own rules and created a community unlike any band before or since.”

UC Santa Cruz Grateful Dead Archivist Nicholas Meriwether will attend the opening of the exhibition.

As ambassador for the UCSC Grateful Dead archive, he has consulted with the museum during every phase of the creation of the exhibit--helping to place artifacts and stories in the larger context of the Grateful Dead’s history, and generally serving as a resource to the Hall’s curator and staff.

“The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the nation’s premier cultural repository for rock music,” Meriwether noted. “They are launching a major exhibition of the Grateful Dead and we’re honored to participate in the stewardship of the band’s legacy.”

“This will be the first sustained, in-depth examination of the Dead phenomenon to be mounted on a national level,” added Meriwether. “It builds on the smaller exhibit put on by the New-York Historical Society last year, which gave the public a first look at the treasures of the Grateful Dead Archive at UCSC.”

“Now the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's exhibit will provide a more in-depth look at those treasures and those collected by the band members, close associates, and friends.”

The exhibition will run through December 12.

Kramer said he has been working with staff on the Hall of Fame exhibition for almost 18 months. He noted the uniqueness of the Grateful Dead Archive at UC Santa Cruz.

“The mere fact that an archive related to one specific and significant band exists is a major achievement,” said Kramer. “It’s unlikely that many of these sort of group-specific archives will exist because the material doesn’t exist.”

“For the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, as well as our new Library and Archive, it’s important for institutions like ours to work together,” he added.

“We have an annual visitorship between 450,000-500,000 and all will have the opportunity to see the exhibit.”