The man behind the gift to ‘Dead Central’

Scott Brittingham helps UC Santa Cruz finish dedicated exhibition space for Grateful Dead Archive

Sign at Dead Central over UCSC Grateful Dead Archive
(Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)
Trixie Garcia, and Scott Brittingham, in the new exhibition space for the Grateful Dead Ar
Trixie Garcia, and Scott Brittingham, in the new exhibition space for the Grateful Dead Archive at UC Santa Cruz. (Photo by Eric Arvizu) 
sculpture of Jerry Garcia's distinctive picking hand at UCSC Grateful Dead Archive
Sculpture commissioned by Brittingham Family Foundation of Jerry Garcia's distinctive picking hand, now on permanent display at the UCSC Grateful Dead Archive. (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)
Dead Central, the long-awaited 1,400-square-foot exhibit space for the Grateful Dead Archive at UC Santa Cruz, is now complete—thanks to Santa Barbara investor and philanthropist Scott Brittingham.

A longtime supporter of charitable causes ranging from education to social services, he donated $500,000 to help UCSC finish and fully equip Dead Central.

As a result of this generous gift, the sign above the UCSC archive’s premier exhibition room now reads: Brittingham Family Foundation Dead Central.

“I was very happy that I had the ability to do this when there was a need,” said Brittingham.

“I had no connection to UC Santa Cruz, and no affiliation with the Grateful Dead. It was a bit outside what we had done previously with the foundation. But I thought it was a great opportunity.”

A lifelong Southern Californian, Brittingham is well known in Santa Barbara, where he has led a successful $40 million campaign for the renovation of the Santa Barbara Bowl, the area’s largest outdoor concert amphitheater.

Brittingham also donated $1 million through his family foundation to restore a wooded park—now named the Jerry Garcia Glen—at the Bowl, which features a large bronze sculpture Brittingham commissioned of Garcia’s distinctive picking hand.

Sculpted by artist Tom White, there are two smaller versions of that piece, one of which will be on permanent display at UCSC’s Grateful Dead Archive.

“I think it’s great that UC Santa Cruz won the archive,” Brittingham notes. “It’s such a beautiful campus and has such good traditions. They are certainly showing a lot of respect to the band by prioritizing the collection.”

“It’s great primary source material for academics,” Brittingham added. “And I’m happy to contribute for the benefit of all the fans. If I weren’t in a position to contribute, I would hope it would be someone else—that’s the spirit of the Grateful Dead.”

The Grateful Dead Archive represents one of the most significant popular cultural collections of the 20th Century.

It documents the Dead’s incredible creative activity and influence in contemporary music history from 1965 to 1995, including the phenomena of the Deadheads, its extensive social network of devoted fans, and the band’s highly unusual and successful musical business ventures.

Brittingham Family Foundation Dead Central will serve as the showcase arena for original memorabilia gifted to UCSC’s McHenry Library by the Grateful Dead.

It will also include many pieces created by renowned artists, items contributed by Deadheads, and artifacts and records from the Grateful Dead's offices.

Posters, documents, photographs, instruments, tickets, backstage passes, fan letters, and intricately decorated ticket envelopes are among the items that will fill the exhibit cases.

Rotating exhibitions, curated by the Grateful Dead Archivist, will be created and installed each year to demonstrate the wide range of resources contained within the Archive.

Short films will additionally be shown in the screening room--which is furnished with high-definition television display--and music and spoken word recordings will also be available for play.

“We feel very fortunate to be able to support the archive,” said Brittingham. “It’s a privilege to have done this.”

“And Nick Meriwether—the Grateful Dead Archivist—is an amazingly inspired and dedicated individual,” Brittingham added. “It’s in good hands.”

The Grateful Dead Archive at UC Santa Cruz will officially open to the public on June 29.