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Bruce Springsteen Is Getting His Own Archive

A new center will celebrate the glory days of Boss and other American musical icons

Bruce Springsteen performs with drummer Max Weinberg in 2008. (Craig O'Neal - Wikimedia Commons/CC)
smithsonian.com

For decades, Bruce Springsteen has dominated the hearts of fans and music critics, garnering 20 Grammy Awards and living out his glory days as one of the world’s bestselling recording artists. But soon, Springsteen will become the boss of something else: the world of archives. As Ben Sisario reports for the New York Times, a New Jersey university is building a special center to house the star’s papers and rock memorabilia.

It will be called the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music, and will be housed at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey. The location is appropriate given Springsteen’s indelible association with the Jersey Shore, where he grew up and began his life as a musician, and which is associated with much of his creative output over his decades-long career.

In a release, Monmouth University noted that it will become the official repository for all of Springsteen’s papers, artifacts, photographs and other materials. It has already hosted a special collection devoted to Springsteen.

The Boss won’t be the only focus of the center: Other artists born in the U.S.A. will also be celebrated there. Among them are other musical icons like Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams and fellow New Jersey native Frank Sinatra, whom Springsteen has called one of his musical heroes. The center, writes the university, will not only be a GRAMMY affiliate but will serve to integrate music history more deeply into Monmouth’s curriculum.

With over 65 million album sales to his name, Springsteen will surely be a draw for the university. As Sisario notes, rock archives are becoming increasingly popular, with the recent sale of Bob Dylan’s archives for an estimated $20 million just one example of the high cachet of music memorabilia. Iconic rock sites like Paisley Park, which was turned into a museum after the death of Prince last year, are also popular sites for both pilgrims and academics looking to assess how popular music influenced history and culture.

In an event announcing the center, Springsteen acknowledged the power of that music. “Music is a political force,” he said. “At a certain point, the right song can light a fire.…Music documents events…they resonate down through the years.” He was talking about his own songs, but the items in Springsteen’s vast personal archive do the same thing—capture moments in time that will now be available for anyone to see. The artist himself may have been born to run, but now his legacy will be cemented in place for future generations.

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