As the Grateful Dead archivist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Nicholas Meriwether hopes his adoption of Web 2.0 principles to create a Dead bibliography and discography will show Web 2.0 developers how to collaborate with traditional scholarship. With at least eighteen college disciplines having active "Dead studies," five doctoral dissertations, and twelve Masters of Arts theses so far, the Grateful Dead are the most-studied pop culture phenomenon in U.S. academia.
Meriwether believes the UC Santa Cruz's Dead archive project will yield better results than, for example, the experience of Orkut, a social networking web site owned and operated by Google, for two big reasons: The passionate user base of Deadheads is dedicated to correcting mainstream media's dismissive inaccuracies, and the availability of a huge, diverse body of work, which has been collected and validated by millions of fans. Artifacts of the archive from around the world include business records, contracts, other financial transaction records, touring schedules, music releases, videos, books, press clippings, correspondence with fans, posters, photos, even backstage guest lists. Many of these items can be placed in more than one category. They are business artifacts and fine art.
According to Meriwether , the internet has the potential to remedy thinly researched, mediocre scholarship. Enthusiasm, readiness, and capacity of deadheads and scholars to contribute to what Meriwether calls "the common wheel" is helpful. Add to this user experience (UX) and computer/human interaction (CHI) theory and practice, intersecting with traditional archival principles, to cultivate an educated and active user base, and Meriwether says all will be motivated to collaborate on assembling data, collective memory, and what today is called "swag," into a significant record.
The Grateful Dead Archive was donated to U.C. Santa Cruz in 2007. According to Meriwether, it is the nation's largest pop culture archive devoted to all the complexity, range, and detail of one particular topic.
Nicholas Meriwether comes to Santa Cruz from the University of South Carolina, where he has served as oral historian in the South Caroliniana Library for the past five years. His background experience includes work as an educational, research, and rare-book consultant.
Meriwether holds a bachelor of arts degree from Princeton University and a master's in library science with a specialization in archives from the University of South Carolina. His research on the Grateful Dead, their cultural significance, and their impact on late 20th Century society has resulted in a number of publications. Meriwether is the editor of All Graceful Instruments: The Contexts of the Grateful Dead Phenomenon (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007), as well as four volumes of Dead Letters: Essays on the Grateful Dead Phenomenon (Dead Letters Press).
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