In 2016, the George Kaiser Family Foundation, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, acquired truckloads of photos, papers and audio recordings of American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. The resulting Bob Dylan archive is estimated to be worth up to $60 million.
At the time, many people wondered why such a large portion of Dylan’s estate was auctioned off by one of America’s wealthiest families. It wasn’t until 2021 that she announced: Large parts of Dylan’s legacy are to be exhibited in the Bob Dylan Center.
The fact that the new museum is opening in Oklahoma’s second largest city, Tulsa, is apparently entirely in the interests of the now 80-year-old artist. In an interview with Vanity Fair, he commented favorably on the decision: life on the US coasts is “vibrant”, but he himself, who hails from Minnesota, has always preferred the “casual buzz of the interior”.
Collection unique worldwide
The three-story Bob Dylan Center exhibits more than 100,000 items that Bob Dylan once owned – or created – over the course of seven decades. This includes handwritten lyrics to some of his greatest songs, previously unreleased recordings and never-before-seen photos and films, artwork and other items.
The museum wants to give an “intimate insight into the artist’s working process,” according to the website. A multimedia installation deals with Dylan’s life from childhood in Minnesota to becoming a world-famous folk musician. In a recreated studio, you can recreate how a recording “feels” like.
There will also be a movie theater at the Bob Dylan Center. Films are to be shown there in which Dylan can be seen as an actor, for which he composed the music or which reconstruct his life. For example, Martin Scorsese’s Dylan biography “No Direction Home” (2005), the documentary “Don’t Look Back” about Dylan’s UK tour in 1965 or the feature film “Pat Garrett chases Billy the Kid” (1973), for which Dylan wrote the soundtrack Has.
A museum for a living legend
The patron of the museum is the oil billionaire George Kaiser, who was born in Tulsa. He is one of the richest entrepreneurs in America. His fortune is currently estimated at around ten billion dollars. A large part of this goes to the George Kaiser Family Foundation, which is primarily committed to combating child poverty. According to Business Weekly, he is one of the most generous philanthropists in the United States.
Before his foundation bought the Bob Dylan memorabilia in 2016, it also acquired memorabilia belonging to folk singer Woody Guthrie in 2010. The Woody Guthrie Center was opened in 2013, not far from where the Bob Dylan Center now stands. Bob Dylan should be fine with that, judging by his statements Guthrie had a formative musical influence on him.
It’s no coincidence that an entire museum is now being dedicated to folk musician and “National Treasure” Bob Dylan. Over the course of his distinguished career, Dylan has sold more than 125 million records worldwide, written some of the most popular songs of the 20th century, and received 11 Grammy Awards, the Nobel Prize in Literature and the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Star line-up for the opening
In the run-up to the opening of the museum on May 10, three star-studded concerts took place. Patti Smith, Elvis Costello and gospel legend Mavis Staples all gave concerts a few days before the Bob Dylan Center opened. For all three, Bob Dylan was a musical inspiration.
He himself will not appear at the opening. However, it was recently announced that a five-meter-tall metal sculpture, designed and built by Dylan himself in his studio, will adorn the center’s interior entrance.