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Dead is Alive

ae dead1UC Santa Cruz’s Grateful Dead Archive finally opens to the public

It might be a slight exaggeration to say, “in the beginning was the Grateful Dead and post-modern culture flowed forth from that mighty stream”—but, the band’s new archive at UC Santa Cruz makes a compelling case.

The exhibit, entitled “A Box of Rain: Archiving the Grateful Dead Phenomena”—which officially opens to the public on June 29—features a wide variety of Grateful Dead memorabilia, and is housed at Dead Central: a 1,400-square-foot space inside the McHenry Library at UCSC.

 

Archivist Nicholas Meriwether, the silver-haired gentleman who oversees the ambitious project, has streamlined the ragged adventures of the Bay Area rock band into one exciting, cohesive visual experience. Meriwether contributed all of the graphics, and designed the layout and typesetting for the exhibition himself.

The purpose of the exhibit is twofold: to tell the story of the archive and how it came to be, and to tell the tale of the band with associated cultural and historical phenomena. The ways in which the two stories intersect and interact is up to archive visitors to discover. The memorabilia housed inside the glass room has the charm, power and mystery to captivate fans, scholars and the curious.

One such display features one of the band’s guitars, which was used by a Stanford physicist interested in acoustics. “It documents the fact that academic rigor and scholarly study have been associated with the band since 1966,” says Meriwether. Another case contains volumes of fan zines created by Deadheads and other publications that came directly from the band. “And this makes the point that immediately the band consisted of  more than just people performing on stage for a static audience—it’s a great big participatory ritual,” Meriwether adds.

ae GratefulDead2In another exhibit, a note that was handwritten in 1962 by Jerry Garcia to one of his guitar students, is also on display. “This was before he was in Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions, which is the band that preceded the Warlocks, which preceded the Grateful Dead,” explains Meriwether. The note is one example of the tablatures that Garcia would scribble down at the end of each class, in order to break down his students’ favorite songs into chords they could practice at home. “I think this is something that is often overlooked—Jerry and the rest of the band were really fine teachers,” says the archivist. “They were good teachers in the sense that they made it clear they were students themselves.”

Aside from their roles as educators, Meriwether hopes that the archive will shed light on the band’s important role in American culture overall. “One of the things I needed to do is reassure skeptics of the band’s enduring significance,” he says.

The archive chronicles everything from the band’s early involvement with the Palo Alto art scene of the late 1950s, to The Acid Tests, to Woodstock. There are plenty of novelties for the entertainment of Deadheads, including the actual long wooden table the band used for meetings—but, the devil is in the details.

Within one glass case there are five PhD dissertations in a variety of fields, 27 master’s degree theses, and more than 50 peer-reviewed scholarly articles. But, when asked what aspect of the archive excites him most, Meriwether pointed to the eye-popping graphics that seem to beckon the viewer. “What other academics get to actually commission such wonderful posters to document their gatherings?” he asks with a smile. 

The public opening of the Grateful Dead Archive will take place from 1-4 p.m. on Friday, June 29, at UCSC’s McHenry Library, 1156 High St., Santa Cruz. No cover.

Photo1: Jim Marshall / Photo 2: MaryAnn Mayer

Comments (3)Add Comment
...
written by GT, July 02, 2012
Tom, you can find the hours for the archive and more info at the following link:
http://library.ucsc.edu/grateful-dead-archive/visit
...
written by Tom Clark, July 01, 2012
What are the regular hours they are open to the public?
...
written by This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , June 26, 2012
daggnabbit!! I thought it was today and here I am all broken hearted...

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Heart Me Up

In defense of Valentine’s Day

 

“be(ing) of love (a little) more careful”—e.e. cummings

Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

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