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Grateful Dead: Now Playing at the New-York Historical Society

March 05, 2010 - September 05, 2010

In March 2010, the New-York Historical Society will present the first large-scale exhibition of materials from the Grateful Dead Archive. Drawn almost exclusively from the Archive housed at the University of California Santa Cruz, Grateful Dead: Now Playing at the New-York Historical Society, will chronicle the history of the Grateful Dead, its music, and phenomenal longevity through an array of original art and documents related to the band, its members, performances, and productions. Exhibition highlights from the archive will include concert and recording posters, album art, large-scale marionettes and other stage props, banners, and vast stores of decorated fan mail.

American Beauty album cover, 1970, copyright 2010 Alton Kelley.

Tracing the career and achievements of a band that became one of the most significant cultural forces in 20th century America, the New-York Historical Society presents The Grateful Dead: Now Playing at the New-York Historical Society. The exhibition, on view from March 5 to September 5, 2010, represents the first large-scale exhibition of materials from the Grateful Dead Archive, housed at the University of California Santa Cruz.

Through a wealth of original materials, the exhibition will explore the musical creativity and influence of the Grateful Dead from 1965 to 1995, the sociological phenomenon of the Deadheads (the band's network of devoted fans) and the enduring impact of the Dead's pioneering approach to the music business. Among the objects in the exhibition will be documents, instruments, audio and video recordings, album art, photographs, platinum records, posters, programs, newsletters, tickets, and t-shirts and other merchandise. Highlights will include the band's first record contract, tour itineraries, backstage guest lists, decorated fan mail, rare LP test pressings, drawings for the fabled Wall of Sound amplifier array, scripts for the Grateful Dead ticket hotline, notebooks of Dead archivist Dick Latvala, life-size skeleton props used in the band's "Touch of Grey" video and large-scale marionettes and other stage props.

"Despite the Grateful Dead's close association with California, the band and New York have been an important part of each other's history from the first time the Dead played here in 1967 to the band's year-on-year performances in New York from the late 1970s through 1995," commented Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. "This exhibition not only celebrates the band's relationship with New York but its tremendous impact on American culture."

"The Grateful Dead Archive is one of the most significant popular cultural collections of the 20th century," said Christine Bunting, the head of Special Collections and Archives at the University Library at UC Santa Cruz. "We are delighted that the Historical Society is presenting this unprecedented exhibition, providing the public and the thousands of fans with such an exciting overview of the band's musical journey."

The Grateful Dead: Now Playing at the New-York Historical Society provides unique glimpses into the political and social upheavals and artistic awakenings of the 1960s and 1970s, a tumultuous and transformative period that shaped our current cultural and political landscape, and examines how the Grateful Dead's origin in northern California in the mid-1960s was informed by the ideology and spirit of both the Beat Generation and the burgeoning Hippie scene, including the now-legendary Acid Tests. The exhibition also explores how the band's refusal to follow the established rules of the record industry revealed an unexpected business savvy that led to innovations in a rapidly changing music industry, and also to a host of consumer-driven marketing enrichments that kept fans in frequent contact with the band.

Click here to read a curator's blog

Creative: Tronvig Group