February 8th, 2003 was the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame U2 exhibit in Cleveland, Ohio.  I was lucky enough to be able to attend and what follows are my comments and observations on the presentation from a fan (and a collector's) standpoint. To the right are several photos taken throughtout the exhibit, by the staff of u2wanderer.org - click on the thumbnail to see the entire photo.

The exhibit stretches throughout the Hall of Fame.  The permanent fixture of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the Zoo TV setup with trabants hanging overhead and a Zoo TV sign that greets you as you enter the main foyer of the museum.  There is a floor dedicated to Anton Corbijn's photography of the band from 1982 onwards, both in black and white, and colour.  The next floor up is an exhibit of material from U2's earliest days through to the end of the 1980s.  The top floor of the Hall of Fame Museum is dedicated to U2's career from the 1990s onwards.

The collection is put together with contributions from U2, people who work with U2, and several fans themselves.  Materials in the display range from a copy of the Walk On CD single, outfits worn by the band throughout the years, to handwritten lyrics, and other personal effects from the band and their employees from over the years.  Also included is the previously mentioned display of Corbijn photographs.

The opening of the exhibit featured a presentation by Jim Henke, the curator of the Hall of Fame, who also happens to be a U2 fan, and has known the band since the 80s.  He told of how he was given the chance to make a wish list of items, and how many of them came to be included in the exhibit.  He also made mention of the fact that the exhibit won't be stagnant, and that in May the Corbijn exhibit would be replaced with an exhibit of the work of Four 5 One Design, the company founded by Steve Averill who not only has worked on the artwork for most of U2's releases, but is also responsible for giving U2 their name.

The exhibit on the upper two floors has been broken down into years.  As you move along the exhibit walls on the fifth floor you move from the end of the 70s, year by year up to the 80s.  As you move to the next floor you progress through the 90s in a similar fashion.  Other exhibits that don't quite follow a timeline are interspersed throughout the chronological order of the exhibit.  Moving through in an orderly fashion you get to view the progression of the band through their posters, their production notes, their album covers, and their artifacts.  It makes for a very interesting perspective, to see how they have grown throughout the years.

Also included in the exhibit are several video presentations by Dreamchaser productions.  One gives a general overview of the earlier years and the progression of the band, the other is displayed similar to the video walls of the various tours and plays material from the band in the 90s on the wall of the Hall of Fame.  Also included is a theatre off of the Corbijn theatre which was playing Rattle and Hum on the big screen on repeat when I was at the Hall of Fame.  Plans include playing other material from the bands career as well.  Unfortunately time did not permit me to sit through a full showing of Rattle and Hum but I did stay for the goosebumps of seeing Streets on the big screen one more time.

As a collector I had seen many of the physical items displayed - the posters, the vinyl, the CDs.  My interest was much more focused on the material contributed by the band.  The one item that really captured my attention was the handwritten production notes from Brian Eno on the All That You Can't Leave Behind album featuring mention of songs such as "Big Jesus About Town", "Sweat of the Sun", and "The Zulu House".  Who knows exactly what these songs have morphed into, or if they are waiting for us around the corner on what comes next.  Also of interest were some of the looks into the early lives of the band, the homemade buttons and t-shirts, the rejection letters from various labels, the promotional letter put together by Adam Clayton's father which calls Bono, "Paul Housten" etc.  This was the meat of the exhibit for me, and I wish I had more time to go through and read through all of the written material that was part of the exhibit.

Another big part of the enjoyment of the exhibit was spending the weekend in Cleveland with friends, those people you meet on tour, and may not see in between, or those you may have never met before but have just corresponded with via the internet.  Walking through the exhibit with friends who share the love of the band was the start of many an interesting conversation.  It was certainly interesting hearing all of the memories that came pouring out when surrounded by the memrobilia collected in the museum.  Part of the weekend included a gathering at the Hard Rock Cafe down the street partially organized by our friends at atu2.com.  With a great U2 tribute band playing, fellow U2 fans all around, and giveaways and trivia about U2 it certainly made the perfect accompanyment to the Hall of Fame exhibit itself.

If an opportunity presents itself I'll surely head back to visit the exhibit again after the Four 5 One material is added to the displays.  I'll definitely be planning more time to spend in the U2 exhibit itself as well as the remainder of the Hall of Fame exhibits.  Thanks are definitely required to the staff of the Hall of Fame who put all of this together, and who were very helpful throughout the weekend.  It was obvious that not only had they worked on the exhibit, but many were also fans.

Related Links:

Photo over the escalators heading to the HOF exhbit.
Trabants hanging in the entrance way to the Hall of Fame.
Display exhibit with items from the War Tour.
Display case with several artifacts from U2's earliest days.
U2's Popmart outfits on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Display case with items from U2 from 1979 - 1983.
Elevation tour clothing on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Display case featuring U2's participation with various organizations in the mid 80s.
Display case from U2's Elevation tour (2001).
Display case showing items from Pop and PopMart.
Display case featuring items from the Love Town Tour and the Rattle and Hum album.
Scale model of the design of the PopMart tour stage displayed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Display case showing items from the Zoo TV tour.
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