Legendary writer and singer Woody Guthrie’s archives are returning home.
A few months after the 100th anniversary of the troubadour’s birth, The Woody Guthrie Center is set to open in Tulsa, Okla., the folk singer’s home state.
The George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) recently purchased the archives from Woody Guthrie Publications in New York. While the Woody Guthrie Center is set to open in Tulsa, Okla., by the end of the year, an archives component — which includes lyrics to roughly 3,000 songs and 700 pieces of artwork — won’t open until next year.
Guthrie was born in 1912 and died in 1967 after a lengthy battle with Huntington’s Disease. Perhaps best known for writing “This Land is Your Land” and a number of ballads about the Dust Bowl, he profoundly influenced a generation of folk singers, including Bob Dylan, who helped bring about the 1960s folk revolution.
“Woody Guthrie is the greatest American folk singer/songwriter of all time,” Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS), said in a news release. “His art is deeply connected to Oklahoma’s people and its history. It reflects the Oklahoma experience, from mobility and immigration to diversity and the longing for a sense of community. Whether it was the Indian forced onto a reservation, a farmer looking for new land or an oilman driven to find one more gusher, Woody gave voice to their hopes and dreams.”
Added Blackburn: “Bringing this collection to Tulsa further validates the city as our nation’s crossroads of creativity and enhances the community’s intricate blend of art deco, jazz and Native American influences. This collection will draw a steady stream of scholars, artists and visitors to Tulsa. I can think of no other collection in terms of scope or importance that would compare.”
Based in Tulsa, GKFF “is a charitable organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty through investments in early childhood education, community health, social services and civic enhancement.”
“It is a privilege for GKFF to help bring the Woody Guthrie Archive home to Oklahoma,” Ken Levit, GKFF executive director, said in a news release. “The Guthrie family has inspired us through its brilliant and creative stewardship of these remarkable materials. We plan to make the Woody Guthrie Archive available to scholars, artists and the public so the story of this extraordinary Oklahoman can be told for generations to come. We look forward to working with others to create a permanent home for the collection in the Brady District and expect the Woody Guthrie Center to open in late 2012, with the archives arriving in early 2013.”
Guthrie’s daughter, Nora, previously housed the archives in Mount Kisco, N.Y.
“A permanent home for the collection was something we had thought about for years,” Nora Guthrie wrote on woodyguthrie.org. “But it was an undertaking that we also had to admit we could never fulfill on our own. From its beginnings in 1992, we worked at unpacking, looking through, and organizing the boxes of materials, to creating a space where people could come and research, while figuring out how to fund it all, to bring the collection where it is today. That’s just about 20 years of work, to the day. And it was about as much as we could handle.”