World's Largest Bruce Springsteen Archive?
Monmouth University will house nearly 15,000 Springsteen documents.
Oct. 19, 2011— -- It's likely the largest collection of Bruce Springsteen memorabilia in the world. In November, nearly 15,000 documents including newspaper clippings, magazines, books and even three of the songwriter's high school yearbooks will be housed in a climate-controlled building in Monmouth University on the Jersey Shore.
The college is just a few miles from Asbury Park, where Springsteen performed at The Upstage Club more than four decades ago. An especially fitting location given the title of Springsteen's debut album, "Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J."
Previously, the documents had been stored at the Asbury Park public library. But as the collection grew -- from 1,000 materials in 2001 to nearly 15,000 today -- the library only had room for one third of it.
The rest was archived by the Friends of the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection, a nonprofit with more than 200 members that has been collecting memorabilia from fans for more than a decade.
Eileen Chapman, the assistant director of performing arts at Monmouth University, came up with the idea to consolidate the collections into one building on her campus.
"I had the sense that the library was being overburdened by the amount of people coming to see the collection and the lack of space they had," said Chapman, who lives in Asbury Park. "I just thought it would be more readily accessible to academics here at the university."
Now, the thousands of documents from 44 countries will all be housed under one roof, offering academics and fans easy access to information about Springsteen.
And the collection will only keep growing. Plans are in the works to include an audio and video archive, according to Bob Crane, co-founder of the Friends of the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection.
"There's tremendous dialogue that Bruce made during his tours and that's all captured on concert CDs," Crane said. "We knew that as much as we were interested in adding that element of Springsteen history to the collection we knew it could not happen at the Asbury Park library. Now we have the shelf space."
In the meantime, the archived documents will be available by appointment starting Nov. 1, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Petra Ludwig, Director of Public Relations at Monmouth, said the collection "will be integrated into the normal University library operations."
"We do not expect it to be a financial burden, at its current size and considering its probable use as a scholarly-research source," she said.
"The university made the [space] available -- and put in a new heating and AC and security system," Chapman said. "The Friends of the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection provided the shelving, archival boxes and some room-darkening shades."
The president of the Springsteen nonprofit, Christopher Phillips, said they have been collecting Springsteen memorabilia from "fans around the world" for nearly a decade.
A fan since he was 13 years old, Phillips first attended Springsteen's "Born in the USA" tour.
"Some people say 'this just changed my life.' Well, it really did! This is what I do for a living now," said Phillips, who also edits Backstreets Magazine, a fanzine about Springsteen.
In 2001 he founded Friends of the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection with Crane, who subsequently quit his two-decade job as a chief of staff for various members of Congress.
"This was a lot more fun," he said. "It's worth it -- the collection is awesome."
Crane, 68, also describes his first concert with "The Boss" as "life changing." The 1978 "Darkness on the Edge of Town" tour had no comparison, he told ABCNews.com.
"Sometimes you're in the presence of someone -- even in a place as large as Madison Square Garden --where the power, the personality, the performance, the overall talent, the passion is unlike anything you've ever encountered," said Crane. "I love the Beatles and I love Elvis -- but Bruce … everything came together. Everything was perfect – the lyrical imagery, his sense of place, storytelling, writing ability, the power of the band … there's nothing like it."