The physical center was created by renowned architectural and exhibit design firm Olson Kundig, led by design principal Alan Maskin. It was designed to provide visitors with an immersive, multimedia experience that not only provides an overview of all that is contained within the Bob Dylan Archives, but also gives visitors the chance to explore aspects of Dylan’s life, career and influences in as much detail as they wish.
“When we began working on the center, the designers spoke of ‘skimmers,’ ‘swimmers’ and ‘divers,’” Jenkins said. “The skimmers are people who may not know that much about Dylan, other than he’s the guy with the nasally voice who wrote songs for the Byrds and other groups.
“The swimmers are the sort of visitors who are more familiar with Dylan’s work, and they kind of bop around the space, because their attention is caught by something over here, or over there,” he said. “Then there are the divers, who want to get to the depths of everything, and who could easily spend the entire day here, looking and listening and experiencing all that we have.
“So the center was designed to give the best possible experience to everyone,” Jenkins said.
Visitors are greeted by a wall emblazoned with a quote from Dylan: “Life isn’t about finding yourself or finding anything. It’s about creating yourself and creating things.” Next to the stairs that lead up to the reception desk and museum shop is a 16-foot metal sculpture by Dylan.
A photo from the session that produced the cover of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” album has Dylan pointing the way into the main portion of the center, which begins with a multimedia room that presents a 12-minute collage created by Jennifer LeBeau of film excerpts of Dylan talking about his life that will be be shown on screens around the room.
Dylan’s influences are further explored in the “Listening Booths,” designed to resemble such rooms in record shops, where people listened to albums and singles before buying them.
A recreation of a studio mixing board in the Church Studio gallery will give visitors the chance to “listen in” on recording sessions for five different Dylan tracks, and be able to manipulate the playback to isolate individual instruments and voices.
The second floor includes the “Creators Gallery,” which will be home to temporary touring exhibits. The first is “Jerry Schatzberg: 25th & Park,” showcasing some of the noted photographer and filmmaker’s portraits from the 1960s of people such as Faye Dunaway, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and dancer and actress Carmen de Lavallade.
It also features the “Archive Wall,” which Davidson said was designed to provide visitors with a sense of the depth and breadth of the archives — from the metal contraptions that Dylan used to hold harmonicas as he played guitar to bags of fan mail, from items associated with the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys to memorabilia from his “Shot of Love” album and tour that featured Tulsa musicians Steve Ripley and Jim Keltner.
“It’s really a way of telling 100 different stories through objects,” Davidson said. “The harmonica racks, for example, we included because one critic described the harmonica as ‘Dylan’s second voice.’
“The whole idea is that this is a place where the visitor can participate,” Jenkins said. “We didn’t want this to be a place where you passively look at objects and move on.”
And, Jenkins and Davidson said, the Bob Dylan Center will, like a rolling stone, gather no moss.
“We have a great many objects, and a great many stories we can tell with those objects,” Jenkins said.
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