Colts owner Irsay talking up pop culture collection museum

In this 2014 file photo, Indianapolis Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay poses in Indianapolis with the Fender Stratocaster guitar that Bob Dylan played at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965.

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay is talking with officials in several cities about the possibility of creating a museum to display the pop culture memorabilia that he’s spent millions of dollars collecting over the past 20 years.

That collection includes musical instruments such as guitars used by Prince and Bob Dylan, a piano used by John Lennon and a Ringo Starr drum set, and other items such as the 120-foot-long scroll on which Jack Kerouac wrote the 1950s novel “On the Road.”

Irsay has ramped up discussions about a museum recently, Colts chief operating officer Pete Ward told the Indianapolis Business Journal.

“He’s added some really significant pieces to his collection over the past six to 12 months and he doesn’t want them sitting in a room where no one can enjoy them except for himself,” Ward said.

Irsay in the past couple months has purchased an Apple II computer manual signed by Steve Jobs and Elton John’s tour piano.

Irsay has loaned some of his collection for museum exhibitions or displayed them at private showings, but he’s interested in a permanent location. He is looking at Indianapolis, along with cities such as Boston, Chicago, Nashville, Tennessee, and Austin, Texas.

“We’ve had some casual conversations — nothing real intense or serious, but there have been indications that there’s interest,” Ward said, noting that no decisions haven’t been made on how to pay for creation of the museum. Irsay has been “approached by a couple of entities about the collection and we’re looking at engaging an architect to talk about concepts. But that’s really all that’s happening right now.”

Chris Gahl, vice president of the Visit Indy tourism promotion group, said the organization had been asked to determine how the collection could attract visitors to the city.

“Part of our responsibility as the city’s lead tourism agency is to look for ways to continue to diversify and grow our tourism ecosystem to attract more visitors and keep them here longer, spending more,” Gahl said.

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