2011-06-30 / Front Page
Dylan Shrine goes on tour
Next stop for exhibit is East Brunswick Public Library in July
Since 1965, Mel Prussack has been collecting seemingly everything there is to collect about Bob Dylan, from guitar picks to promotional materials like a jar of Traveling Wilburys Twist Peanut Butter and Jelly.
Twenty years ago, Prussack turned the collection into the Dylan Shrine, a renovated bedroom in his Old Bridge home that houses the thousands of items in his prized collection.
And now, in celebration of Dylan’s 70th birthday, the shrine is going on tour.
The exhibit, called “Dylan@70,” has been on display at the Old Bridge Public Library and will be traveling to the East Brunswick Public Library for the month of July, and the Monmouth County Library Headquarters in Manalapan forAugust.
Arecent study revealed that 37 percent of Americans don’t know who Bob Dylan is, a stat that Prussack laments.
“I want to try and educate the young people to understand why Dylan was such an important figure, because our whole times are going to be studied through his work,” he said. “We want to try and reach a lot of people to explain why he is important, why he is going to be important.”
The “Dylan@70” exhibit features an eclectic sampling of items from the Dylan Shrine, each introduced with laminated descriptions and historical background. The exhibit has a bevy of authentic collectibles, including an autographed pickboard from Traveling Wilburys guitarist Jeff Lynne, a photo clip and commemorative plaque from Prussack’s recorded video of Dylan’s Rubin “Hurricane” Carter benefit concert at Madison Square Garden, and even a keychain that Dylan threw into the crowd after a show at William Paterson University in 1997.
Visitors will also find a timeline of Dylan’s life and a collection of his music on all kinds of different media formats, from records and 8- track tapes to CDs and mp3s, showing the longevity of Dylan’s career, Prussack said.
Apostmark, designed by Seymour Nussenbaum and celebrating Dylan’s 70th birthday and the shrine’s hometown of Old Bridge, is also on display. Prussack’s own artistic tributes to Dylan are strewn throughout the exhibit as well. Called “zim-art,” a reference to Dylan’s birth name of Robert Zimmerman, Prussack’s works playfully depict Dylan’s lyrics and songs. Prussack’s first “zim-art” creation, a tambourine with action figure arms and legs and googly eyes, represents the Dylan classic “Mr. Tambourine Man.”
Prussack said he used to wear “Mr. Tambourine Man” on a light-up hat to Dylan concerts, which seemed to gain the approval of the singer.
“He bowed tome one time,” said Prussack, who noted that he hasn’t missed a show in the area since Dylan’s surprise guest appearance at the Concert for Bangladesh in 1969.
Many more items, however, remain in the shrine, including some of his more prized possessions, like original drumsticks signed by drummer Mickey Jones from the concerts when Dylan “went electric” in the 1960s.
Now 70 years old himself, Prussack has been looking to move some items from the shrine. He said there are some that he can give to his son and daughter, but in total the collection has become “too much.”
“Iwant to donate it somewhere to a college, museum or school somewhere,” he said.
Prussack reached out to Princeton University, where Dylan received an honorary doctorate in 1970, to try and set up a permanent exhibit of the shrine. But the university does not accept outside donations, he said. Prussack now plans to pitch his collection to the University of Minnesota, Dylan’s home state and the college where Prussack’s grandson, Jake, will be studying this fall. But he is also looking at other options as well,
“That’s why I started doing this, so people know that I have these things and I want to put it somewhere,” he said.
The exhibit is already a hit, said Tim Niland, an adult services librarian at the Old Bridge Public Library and a big Dylan fan himself.
“We have had a lot of people coming in to take a look at it,” Niland said. “It was great that he bought this stuff. It is really unique.”