You Can Visit the Dead

Head to Dead Central, where Deadhead Nicholas Meriwether oversees a mighty collection.

If you think that becoming a library archivist is easy, you’re dead wrong. For those applying to an open position at UC Santa Cruz in 2010, it was even harder than usual— applicant Nicholas Meriwether was up against more than 400 others. That’s what happens when the Grateful Dead, a band that’s known for its cult following of loyal groupies, hands over thousands of morsels from their lives for an ongoing public exhibit. But former Deadhead Meriwether had the job in the bag.

How did you beat out the other 400+ applicants?

UCSC knew me and my work before they created the job. I have a master’s in library science with a concentration in archives, and I had edited four academic books on the Dead by then—they asked me to apply. I also think having an affinity for what you study is important. I remember my first Dead show: November 10, 1985.

What exactly is in the archive?

The bulk of the collection was donated in two batches, one in 2008 and one in 2012, by the band itself. It has all the press clippings, business records, most of the audio and video, and a bunch of fan art, to name a few things.

What’s the must-see item?

My favorite piece on display right now is a piece of notebook paper. On it is Jerry Garcia’s sketch of a song. Different Dead cover artists and fans have looked at it, and no one can identify it. It doesn’t seem like it was ever recorded. The fact that it’s a mystery is wonderful.

McHenry Library Expansion, UC Santa Cruz
Jerry-Nick Meriweather

Visit the Dead

The name of the Grateful Dead archive in the McHenry Library at University of California Santa Cruz is Dead Central. It’s open to the public.

Through August 23, The Dear Jerry exhibit at Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History will give more insight into the strong relationship between band and fan.

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