Bob Dylan Museum Debuts in Tulsa

The new center takes visitors on an immersive journey through the artist’s decades-long legacy and indelible mark on music and pop culture history.

Bob Dylan Museum Debuts in Tulsa

Photographer Jerry Schatzberg’s 1965 image of Dylan graces the exterior of the new Bob Dylan Center.

Photo by Getty Images for the Bob Dylan Center

Fans of the 80-year-old folk legend Bob Dylan may want to add Tulsa, Oklahoma, to their list of must-see places to visit. The brand-new Bob Dylan Center has officially debuted in the southern city bringing together more than 100,000 Dylan artifacts, photographs, and manuscripts.

Following grand opening celebrations over the weekend, which included performances by Patti Smith and Elvis Costello, the Bob Dylan Center opens to the public on May 10.

The new Dylan-devoted museum offers an immersive film experience, performance space, and a studio where visitors can play producer and “mix” different elements of instrumentation in Dylan’s songs (the initial songs will include “I Want You,” from the artist’s Blonde on Blonde album, and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” from the Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid soundtrack). Guests will also discover some of the stories behind Dylan classics, such as “Like a Rolling Stone.”

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The new Bob Dylan Center features immersive exhibits and explorations of Dylan’s work.

Photo by Getty Images for the Bob Dylan Center

Visitors can engage in a curated tour that will take them on a journey through the different stages of the singer-songwriter’s musical career.

For the opening, the museum will feature an exhibit of the work of photographer Jerry Schatzberg, whose 1965 image of Dylan is emblazoned on the building’s three-story facade.

Museum creators said they wanted to build an experience both for casual visitors who might not know much of Dylan’s work and for the truly fanatical—the skimmers, the swimmers, and the divers, said designer Alan Maskin of the firm Olson Kundig, which oversaw the architecture and design of the Bob Dylan Center.

Bob Dylan was born in Duluth, Minnesota, on May 24, 1941. In 1961, the self-taught pianist and guitar player moved to New York City, where he became a rising star in the folk music scene. That same year he was signed by Columbia Records and released his debut album one year later. Since then, Dylan has written more than 600 songs and released more than 50 albums. In 2016, the musician was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

For a figure who was born and raised in Minnesota, came of musical age in New York City, and now lives in California, how does a museum devoted to his life’s work end up in Oklahoma?

Dylan recognized early that his work could have historical interest and value, said Steven Jenkins, director of the Bob Dylan Center and a lifelong Dylan fan and aficionado. Together with his team, he put aside boxes full of artifacts, including photos, rare recordings, and handwritten lyrics that show how his songs went through revisions and rewrites.

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Visitors will be taken through the complete history of Bob Dylan.

Photo by Getty Images for the Bob Dylan Center

Dylan sold his archive in 2016 to the Tulsa-based George Kaiser Family Foundation, which also operates the Woody Guthrie Center, a museum that celebrates one of Dylan’s musical heroes and is steps away from the new Dylan center.

The 16-foot-high metal sculpture displayed at the entrance to the museum was designed and built by Dylan. Otherwise, he was not involved with the museum’s design.

Since Dylan’s still creating, “we’re going to continue to play catch-up” with him, said Jenkins.

Information about visiting and obtaining general admission tickets is available at bobdylancenter.com.

Associated Press contributed reporting.

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Michelle Baran is the senior travel news editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, pandemic coverage, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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