Bob Dylan Center Archive

Acquired by the George Kaiser Family Foundation in 2016, the Bob Dylan Archive® consists of more than 100,000 items spanning decades.

Rendering of an archive collection wall within the Bob Dylan Center.

About the Archive

An intimate perspective of the artist’s working process can be evidenced in a vast assortment of handwritten song lyrics. Beginning with songs on the 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan, much of the material is heavily revised, annotated and often includes omitted material. Highlights include various drafts of many of Dylan’s creations, along with a raft of lesser-known song lyrics and fragments.

“For years rumor circulated among Bob Dylan enthusiasts of a legendary secret archive including notebooks that many hoped would reveal how Dylan wrote some of his most iconic songs. In this case the legend happens to be true.”

Denver Nicks – Time Magazine

Dylan’s Personal Musings

The collection also includes essays, poems, liner notes, correspondence, autobiographical bits and philosophical musings.

Many of these are associated with Dylan’s mid-1960s efforts while others trace the artist’s work, changing attitudes and personal activity. Another major section of the archive contains notebooks and correspondence. Recording session reports, contracts, sheet music of Dylan’s songs and scores of photographs also populate the collection.

Astoundingly, master tapes of the artist’s entire musical catalog and hundreds of hours of film and video material are in the collection, as well as the film originals of Murray Lerner’s Festival! (1965), D.  A. Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back (1967), Dylan’s (with Howard Alk and Pennebaker) Eat the Document (1971), Dylan and Alk’s Renaldo & Clara (1978), Martin Scorsese’s Bob Dylan: No Direction Home (2006) and a host of music shorts and videos.

A Scholarly Endeavor

Following on the heels of Tulsa’s relatively recent acquisition of the Woody Guthrie Collection, Bob Dylan’s archive stands to make the city an essential location for conducting scholarly popular music research and generating artistic activity. This is fitting, as Guthrie was a significant early inspiration for and influence on Dylan. 

Dylan’s  long and continuing artistic career strides an ever-changing American environment that touches on many disciplines, and this collection provides a rich source of material for scholars of popular music, film studies, American studies, history, sociology, political science and cultural studies. Continued biographical, literary and musical research on Dylan will depend on access to this collection by scholars from around the world, and we can anticipate the steady creation of papers, monographs, colloquia, symposia, conferences and classroom studies emanating from this collection.

The Research Continues

The examination of “Chimes of Freedom” lyrics scrawled on hotel stationery and dotted with cigarette burns. The dissection of Dylan’s decision to transition from acoustic to electric. The analysis of correspondence between Dylan and beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Each of these are examples of the vast amount of information waiting to be unearthed and research waiting to be conducted.

TU’s Helmerich Center for American Research, located on the grounds of Gilcrease Museum, along with the Woody Guthrie Center, have positioned Tulsa to become a focal point for scholarly inquiry into American popular music.

“A new world of Bob Dylan is waiting to be discovered.”

Jerry Wofford – Tulsa World

Working on a Research Project?

While the Bob Dylan Archive® is not open to the general public, materials in the archive are available to view by approved applicants through appointment only, exclusively on-site at the Bob Dylan Center® in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Due to high demand, access to the archive will only be granted to individuals with qualified research projects. Research requests are on hold until Fall 2022.

If you are interested in conducting research at the Bob Dylan Archive, please submit the form below:

“It’s going to start anew the way people study Dylan.”

Sean Wilentz – Princeton University

Mentions in the Media

03/23/17

CBS Sunday Morning: Inside The Bob Dylan Archive

10/14/16

New York Times: Bob Dylan, The Musician: America’s Great One-Man Songbook

10/14/16

Tulsa World: Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize ‘Affirms The Importance Of The Collection’ Coming To Tulsa

03/02/16

New York Times: Bob Dylan’s Secret Archive

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