The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story

The above photo depicts the latest quirky General Collections item to come through the Conservation Lab.  It may look like a ratty old school notebook, but in fact, it is a surprisingly well-done facsimile of Bruce Springsteen’s lyrics notebook for the album Darkness on the Edge of Town.  The notebook was also used as a scrapbook of early successes with the E Street Band.

High-quality facsimiles seem to be all the rage these days (the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci spring to mind), and this one goes that extra step of reproducing the spiral notebook, with pockets in which 3 music CDs and 3 Blu-ray discs of documentaries have been housed.  The discs have been removed and sent to Media, where they will be stored independently from the notebook according to Media’s standard policy.  We’ll build a box for the notebook to protect and support the spiral binding.

I’m pleased to report that the staples and pressure-sensitive tape that look so realistic are just high-res images, and there are no such troublesome attachment methods for us to deal with here.

Conservation concerns aside, facsimiles like this draw attention to the intrinsic value of the archival artifact beyond its pure informational value.  Everyone who has picked up this notebook has exclaimed, “oh, cool!” or something similar.  Why?  The charm in this publication lies not only in its intellectual content (Bruce Springsteen’s song lyric drafts, photos, and media about the E Street Band), but also in the format of the book — its reproduction of the original “container” for Springsteen’s creative process.  This item is still a composed facsimile.  It mimics, but cannot recreate, the original artifact; furthermore, it’s a somewhat contrived reinvention of the original artifact, reshaped to package the CDs and Blu-ray discs.  However, the publication still manages to hint at the thrill of experiencing original archival material.  Even users lacking the vocabulary or context to analyze or explain it can still intuitively appreciate that value.

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