Bruce Springsteen Unveils New Exhibition Space for Archives in His Hometown, Freehold, N.J.

Bruce Springsteen
Michele Amabile Angermiller

The Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music at Monmouth University has announced a new collaboration with the singer’s hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, to create an exhibition space in the city. The Boss attended the ceremony on Tuesday and gave a brief but moving speech.

“What can I say?” Springsteen said as he took the podium, pointing out a ring given to him by Tex Vinyard, who gave the then-young Freehold musician and his band, the Castiles, a place to rehearse in town.  Springsteen told the crowd that he wears the ring on “special occasions,” as it is the one thing he has that connects him to the town.

“Everything I learned of deep importance, I learned in this town. You learn most of what makes you who you are by the time you are 12, maybe; maybe your teen years. I had all the usual joy and heartbreak of growing up in a small town like this, and of course the minute the opportunity arose — I got the hell out,” he laughed.

“I suppose the unusual thing is moving around the world as I did, I always came back. To this day, I spend quite a bit of money and time trying to figure out what I keep coming back for, and so far, there is no answer. I will let you know as things go on.”

The current Freehold Fire Department building located at 49 W. Main Street will be renovated to accommodate the new exhibition space. The Fire Department will be relocated as part of the Freehold Center Core Redevelopment Plan. Springsteen added that at first he wasn’t sure about moving some of the archives at Monmouth University to Freehold as he didn’t want to “step on anybody’s toes.” But when he was told they wanted to do it in the firehouse on Main Street, he changed his mind.

“That’s the coolest building in town,” he laughed.  “I sat three blocks from here and came up with a few songs and things that I liked and the idea that 50 years later anybody was going to be interested in them at all, I mean what are the odds, folks? They are very small.”

“I come to town very, very often,” he concluded. “I’ll be sitting in Federicis or I’ll just drive through on my own — I still do all the time. So, I’m watching you. It’s been wonderful having this town as the center of my art and my life. I look forward to doing that until they put me in a box.”

Town historian Kevin Coyne spoke of the genesis of the museum, saying originally fans had wanted the town to build a statue of Springsteen in front of Borough Hall.

“The town, thankfully, resisted,” he said. “That’s not who we are, and that’s not who he is. The ties that bind Bruce and his hometown are deeper and more complex than an empty shrine like that could express.”

“Together, the Springsteen exhibition in Freehold and The Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music on the campus of Monmouth University will ensure that the musical legacy of Springsteen and his important role in American music history remain in New Jersey for generations to come,” said Archives director Eileen Chapman.

The anticipated opening date is mid-2024. The exhibition will include artifacts, photographs, multi-media displays (voice, film, concert footage, interviews), and interactive displays. The Springsteen Freehold exhibition will be curated and programmed by The Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music, along with Freehold historian Kevin Coyne and other members of the Freehold community familiar with the Springsteen story.

The Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music at Monmouth University serves as the official archival repository for the singer’s written works, photographs, periodicals, and artifacts, while honoring and celebrating icons of American music like Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, Hank Williams, Frank Sinatra, and others.  The Archives comprise nearly 35,000 items from 47 countries, ranging from books and concert memorabilia to articles and promotional materials; viewings are by appointment only.

Freehold Mayor Kevin Kane said, “On behalf of the entire council, I can say we are so excited to see this collaboration with the Springsteen Archives move forward. This will be the centerpiece of our redevelopment project and will be a fabulous addition to historic downtown Freehold.”

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Michele Amabile Angermiller

Patrick Leahy, Monmouth University president and chairman of the Archives’ board of directors added, “The Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music is pleased to welcome our new Freehold partners as we develop on the campus on Monmouth University one of the country’s premiere cultural and educational institutions dedicated to preserving the legacy of Bruce Springsteen and celebrating the long, rich story of American music.”

According to Chapman, “The Springsteen exhibition in Freehold will allow us to provide not only exciting exhibits that tell the story of Springsteen’s early years, but also dynamic educational and public programs with strong ties to the community and area schools. This exhibition will be an educational resource for teachers, with pre-tour activities for school groups.  In addition, visitors will come from all over the world to see the exhibit.”