If you thought the Grateful Dead were just a bunch of trippy dudes who liked to jam, you’d be missing most of the story. The Dead have long been studied by everyone from sociologists to musicologists and business professors for their surprising business savvy and groundbreaking idea to put fans first (for instance, according to a story this month in The Atlantic, they were the first to establish a telephone hotline to alert their most loyal fans of tour schedules before they were released to the press, and they set aside the best seats for them at low prices). In 2008, the University of California at Santa Cruz was named the permanent home of the Dead’s extensive archive of fan mail, photographs, posters, album art, stage props, banners, and recordings. And the very first large-scale exhibition of this Deadhead treasure trove is happening here at the New-York Historical Society, so you can see exactly what a long, strange, lucrative trip it’s been.

March 5-July 4, 2010