UC Santa Cruz archivist contributes essay to Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary box set

Nearly 100 pieces from the campus’s Grateful Dead Archive also featured in special exhibition at Field Museum next to site of band’s farewell shows in Chicago through July 5

Graphic courtesy of The Field Museum
Image courtesy of The Field Museum
ticket for uc santa cruz fundraising dinner for Grateful Dead Archive
Tickets to a a special August 1 fundraising dinner to support the Grateful Dead Archive at UC Santa Cruz, featuring keynote speaker Dennis McNally, will be limited to just 73 guests. The event takes place at the Museum of Art & History in downtown Santa Cruz.
UC Santa Cruz Grateful Dead Archivist Nicholas Meriwether (Laura McClanathan Meri
UC Santa Cruz Grateful Dead Archivist Nicholas Meriwether (photo by Laura McClanathan Meriwether).

On July 3-5, more than 200,000 people attending the final “Fare Thee Well” shows of the Grateful Dead will be able to walk across the street from Soldier Field in Chicago to see an exhibition featuring nearly 100 items from the Grateful Dead Archive at UC Santa Cruz.

Titled All The Years Combine: Deadhead Treasures from the Grateful Dead Archive and GDTS Too, the exhibition at the Field Museum features material from every part of the Grateful Dead’s career--documenting the extraordinary connection between the Grateful Dead and their family of fans.

“We contributed 93 pieces,” noted Nicholas Meriwether, the Grateful Dead Archivist at UC Santa Cruz, who also co-curated the exhibition. “The museum’s business director and the promoter of the Dead farewell tour wanted to do an exhibition that honored the band’s history and would help commemorate the final shows.”

Meriwether will also be contributing an epic essay to the massive 80-disc, $700 collectors box set that will be released on September 18 to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary.

“It’s a book-length essay—approximately 80,000 words,” said Meriwether. “No one has actually ever written a tour-by-tour account of the band’s history. Since the box set focuses on unreleased live recordings, one from each year of their history, focusing on their performing career just seemed like the logical route to take.”

He noted that the Grateful Dead Archive at UC Santa Cruz has already been providing visual materials for all of the bands recent historical releases.

“One interesting challenge and great pleasure of my work for the past five years has been when the Dead’s legacy manager David Lemieux has asked for supporting materials for their releases. I get to look for correspondence, tickets, artwork—anything that helps to tell the story and give the historical context. But for this box set, I got to do this for 30 years of shows!” he added.

UC Santa Cruz’s Grateful Dead Archive has also shared items and artifacts with several other high profile venues in recent years, including the New York Historical Society and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This summer, it is also currently supporting a local exhibit on Jerry Garcia at the Museum of Art & History in downtown Santa Cruz.

The museum has reciprocated by lending their space to the campus to hold a fundraising dinner for the archive on Jerry Garcia’s 73rd birthday, August 1.

The keynote speaker will be Dennis McNally, the band’s longtime publicist and author of A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead. “It’s the most exhaustive and authoritative account of the band’s history that has yet appeared,” noted Meriwether. Tickets for this special event are limited to just 73 guests.

Meriwether is also the curator of an exhibition on the literary history of the Grateful Dead at the Archive’s home exhibition space, Dead Central, located at McHenry Library on the UC Santa Cruz campus. Titled All the Pages Are Our Days: The Books of the Grateful Dead, this exhibition runs through the end of the year and admission is free.

In addition to housing the Grateful Dead Archive, McHenry Library is also home to a number of other notable archives in its Special Collections that hold particular historical and cultural significance to an international scholarly community. They include the archive of composer Lou Harrison, the personal mycology collection of John Cage, artwork by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, photography collections of Ansel Adams and Pirkle Jones, as well as the archives of the “dean” of American science fiction Robert Heinlein.

Meriwether reflected on the fact that both UC Santa Cruz and the Grateful Dead are this year now both commemorating their 50th anniversary.

“It’s wonderful to be celebrating the band’s 50th at a campus that is also celebrating its 50th anniversary,” said Meriwether.

“It’s given me a great opportunity to think of the surprising parallels between these remarkable cultural institutions—both of whom were pioneers in applying old fashioned standards of excellence and rigor in innovative, non-traditional, cutting-edge ways,” he added.