Prince, via his possessions: 7,000 and counting

A team is preparing for a series of events marking the anniversary of Prince’s death on Friday.

CHANHASSEN, Minn. — In August, when Angie Marchese became director of archives at Paisley Park, the rock star Prince’s studio and residence, one of the first things she did was to get rid of all the candles. Festooning nearly every room of the compound, they came in all sizes, shapes, colors and scents (including a few of Prince’s own aromatic blends).

“We replaced all the real candles with artificial candles,” Marchese said in an interview this week in an anteroom at the compound, as her team prepared for a series of events marking the anniversary of Prince’s death on Friday. (Her crew cataloged and archived the originals.) “We still wanted the essence of the candles, and how they made the rooms feel, without the fire hazard,” she explained. “Prince can burn Paisley Park down, but I can’t.”

Marchese and her team — the same group that oversees Elvis Presley’s Memphis mansion-turned-tourist-stop Graceland — have been tasked with maintaining the grounds of Paisley Park, which Prince built in Chanhassen, a suburb of Minneapolis, in 1987. Once a commercial recording studio, with a soundstage also available for hire, Paisley Park became Prince’s residence during his final years, and throughout its history he hosted hundreds of private concerts and dance parties for fans.

In October, the complex opened as a museum that showcases instruments, clothes, awards and other ephemera. But, like Prince himself, the process of telling his story was mysterious. How did the team go about discovering, cataloging, selecting and displaying Prince’s life via his massive collection of objects?

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“The best part about the exhibition at Paisley, like Paisley itself, it’s a living, breathing exhibition,” Marchese said. The goal of the museum isn’t to tell Prince’s story from birth to death, but to capture what it was about his home base that reflected his creativity and vision. To that end, “It’s constantly being updated,” she said, noting that Prince’s family has been involved from the beginning. “They’re very aware of our process.”

So far, Paisley’s archival team has cataloged more than 7,000 items, a number Marchese considers “less than 5 percent” of the building’s holdings. One key difference between Graceland and Paisley Park, she said, is that where Vernon Presley, Elvis’ Depression-weathered father, kept tight to every receipt, most of the Paisley paper trail has been creative: “We’ve got the sketches for the wardrobe, handwritten notes, lyrics on backs of envelopes or notepads, things like that.”

In fact, most of the earliest materials discovered are direct remnants of Prince’s private working processes. Marchese mentioned some 20 spiral-bound notebooks from throughout his career, including one…

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