Illustration by Matt Boblet.

Story updated 11/12/2011 at 3:25pm

Though it won’t be open to the public until next April, dedicated fans were able to attend the first preview of the Grateful Dead Archive on Nov. 5, while simultaneously helping to fund its continued existence. Tickets ran for $250, and the funds from the event are going toward maintenance of the exhibit.

The archive itself consists of thousands of books, recordings, posters, films, stage props and other Grateful Dead memorabilia, all of which were on display for attendees who paid the $250 to see them on Saturday night.

Though official numbers for attendance have yet to be tallied, university librarian Virginia Steel said they “were expecting about 150.”

Despite being a relatively static exhibit, Steel says maintenance costs have to be taken into account.

“It’s a huge archive, and there are a lot of costs associated with organizational materials,” Steel said. “Putting things in boxes, folders — the [library] staff has to do that.”

The amount raised by the event has yet to be finalized, but funds raised by the event will supplement private donations and a federal grant of $618,000 intended to fund the digitization of archive materials, like photos and illustrations.

“We’re hoping to have the archive online by early spring or early summer,” Steel said. “We’ve digitized and scanned over 50,000 images.”

Steel said there will be no more previews between now and when the exhibit opens to the public in April 2012.

“Between now and December we’re really in a design phase,” Steel said, adding construction of the exhibit’s physical room would likely begin at the end of the year.

Construction itself will also be funded privately.

“The construction itself was paid for by a donor who attended the event,” Steel said.

The archive has been fortunate in garnering the support of philanthropists in the past as well, with both materials and funding donations.

“Now more than ever cultural heritage institutions rely on private support to carry out their missions,” said archivist Nicholas Meriwether in the archive’s official newsletter, Reliquary. The publication of the newsletter itself is funded by two anonymous donors.

When the event opens next spring, there will be no fee for viewing either the physical exhibit or the website.

“It’ll be free, physically and virtually,” Steel said.