Job of the Week: UC-Santa Cruz is hiring a Grateful Dead archivist

Hey, Wall Streeters: Fed up with your job trading now-worthless derivatives? Angry at The System for not recognizing systemic risk? Annoyed that your corporate Yankees box got yanked? Perhaps you should consider a career change. The University of California–Santa Cruz is looking for someone to fill what can truly be called a unique job opening: full-time Grateful Dead archivist.

It's a dream job...for many. Christine Bunting, head of Special Collections and Archives at the university library, says she has received "several dozen" applications. The job has been posted for six days -- which is about the length of the average Grateful Dead jam -- so take note, all you burned-out hedgies: you've still got time!
Millions and Millions

Along with a masters in archives management -- a special type of library science -- the successful candidate will posses "expert knowledge in the history and scholarship of contemporary popular music, or American vernacular culture, preferably the history and influence of the Grateful Dead," according to the job posting.

"It's a priceless collection," Bunting says. "It really chronicles the history of pop culture throughout the 20th century, particularly in California." Because the archives were a gift from the Grateful Dead, there was no price attached, but Bunting says it's worth "millions and millions."

The collection measures 600 linear feet -- two football fields -- and includes office files, contracts, payroll documents, news clippings, setlists, and correspondence, including letters from Deadheads to the band, Bunting says. The Santa Cruz collection amounts to a kind of documentary paper-trail left by the band. (The master studio and concert tapes and reels are stored elsewhere in California.)

Dead Serious About Business

Although this iconic American rock band was associated with the hippie movement, the generation that grew up on its music between the 1960s and the 1980s now occupy the nation's top positions of power and influence. The Dead's bipartisan fanbase includes Ann Coulter, Tucker Carlson, Nancy Pelosi and Pat Leahy. Walter Cronkite was said to be a fan, and President Obama keeps them on his iPod.

Deadheads are also legion in the business world. "Some of the biggest guys I know are Deadheads," says real-estate entrepreneur Billy Procida. He cites as an example Tony Malkin, billionaire owner of the Empire State Building, who lit the landmark in tie-dye colors several weeks ago, to commemorate a fundraiser for the New-York Historical Society. "It just means they have good taste in music and are generally good, decent people," Procida says.

"I've done over $2 billion in real estate deals, and I've never gotten a bad deal with a Deadhead," Procida says. "It's the culture. it's all about doing the right thing. Think about it: Everybody in the Dead culture was all about helping each other and not screwing one another." (So to speak.) "I know so many CEOs who are Deadheads," Procida says. "If you interviewed the top 100,000 self-made guys in the country worth a couple million, I would bet the Grateful Dead would have the highest percentage of them as fans."

Pioneered Viral Marketing

Marketing strategist David Meerman Scott, a motivational speaker on leadership, estimates that 5% of every audience he addresses are Deadheads. "I know, because I devote one minute of my one-hour presentation to the Grateful Dead, and I ask for a show of hands," Scott says. He cites the Dead to illustrate the power of viral marketing -- the band let fans tape and trade live concert recordings, creating a rabid fan-base.

At its commercial peak in the early 1990s, the Grateful Dead was a $100 million corporation that employed a staff of more than 100. The band was routinely among the highest grossing concert acts -- playing shows around the world -- until bandleader Jerry Garcia died in 1995.

The heart of the band's fan-base lies in the precincts of the San Francisco Bay Area, from Oakland and Marin County to Palo Alto and Mountain View, where the Shoreline Ampitheatre stands across Garcia Avenue from the Google (GOOG) headquarters. Many Googlers are Deadheads, including co-founder Larry Page, who went to Dead shows with his college-professor father while growing up in Michigan.

When Deadheads Invent

Indeed, as New York Times reporter John Markoff has documented, there's a direct line from the countercultural '60s radicals that the Dead have come to represent through Silicon Valley pioneers, early computer geeks, and cybercultural thinkers, and the founders of the biggest companies of the internet revolution. With so much history in the Bay Area, it seems inevitable that the band's archives would wind up close by.

But why UC–Santa Cruz? "It was a unanimous decision by the band to select Santa Cruz for the archive," Bunting says. The timing of the federal grant was just luck, she said. Santa Cruz is one of 51 recipients of this year's National Leadership Grants, designed to "advance the ability of museums and libraries to preserve culture, heritage, and knowledge while enhancing learning."

Bunting says the library has received a $615,175 National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal entity that helps fund libraries around the country. The grant will fund a 30-month effort to "digitize materials from its Grateful Dead Archive and make them available in a unique and cutting-edge Web site, the Virtual Terrapin Station."

The archivist will help manage the collection, which will be online for scholars and fans alike to peruse. Bunting said the Library planned to offer conferences and symposia based on the archive. Along with historical insight into the band, Bunting says, the archive also offers a view into the "sociological phenomenon of Deadheads who traveled around the country following the band."
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