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Grateful Dead Memorabilia Presented to Library

Originating in the Bay Area of San Francisco in 1965, the Grateful Dead, with their eclectic style of music, gathered a huge following of fans, who became known as Deadheads, many of whom have remained faithful to the band throughout their long and colorful career. These faithful fans were delighted to hear that three decades worth of Grateful Dead archival material have been donated by the band to the McHenry Library at the University of California-Santa Cruz.

During a press conference at which Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and guitarist/singer Bob Weir presented university chancellor, George Blumenthal, with a tie-dyed T-shirt, Weir explained that the remaining members of the band agreed that making their collection available to the community in this way was the right thing to do. The archive material includes valuable artifacts that document the Grateful Dead’s journey to fame and their ongoing success as one of California’s most long-lasting and influential musical forces. Donated items include business records, stage backdrops, their first recording contract, life-sized skeletons used to represent band members in their 1987 “Touch of Grey” video, as well as an estimated 75,000 fan letters received from around the world – many of which are decorated with elaborate and imaginative artwork.

Although formal academics were not viewed as important by band members, fans are of the opinion that their thought-provoking lyrics, which explored themes such as love, trust and rebirth, merit a scholarship. University of California-Santa Cruz music professor, Fred Lieberman believes that the Grateful Dead were the quintessential American band, and that musicologists will find value in studying how the band’s music style updated many of America’s musical traditions, from bluegrass through to jazz.

The survival of this extensive archive of Grateful Dead memorabilia is thanks to the ongoing efforts of Eileen Law, a devoted staffer who worked with the band for 34 years. Among other jobs, Eileen attended to the fan mail that flooded into their San Rafael post office box. She diligently kept all fan mail, plus press clippings, concert posters and just about everything else to do with the Grateful Dead. Eileen will be assisting the University in cataloging the material when it is moved from the Northern California warehouse, where it is currently being stored.

It is anticipated that many Deadheads from far and wide will want to see the Grateful Dead archive collection once it is available to the public – and the library staff are looking forward to welcoming them.

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