The Jim Irsay Collection: $100 Million Traveling Museum Worth the (Free) Price of Admission

by Jim Casey

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has been steadily assembling one of the most interesting privately owned collections of artifacts in the U.S. When you’re worth more than $3 billion, you can acquire some cool stuff. And Irsay has done that in spades. The Jim Irsay Collection features historical documents, sports collectibles, musical instruments, pop culture memorabilia, and more.

While Irsay’s Collection may be privately owned, he has been sharing it with the world—for free. During the past year, The Jim Irsay Collection World Tour (think of it as a new-age traveling museum with live music and more) has made one-night stops in Nashville, Washington, D.C., Austin, L.A., New York, and Chicago. The viewing events are free, but require RSVP tickets.

On September 9, Irsay’s Collection will be on display at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium. In addition to the artifacts, The Jim Irsay Band—led by Irsay on vocals—will entertain guests. The band, which features names like Mike Wanchic on guitar (John Mellencamp), Mike Mills on bass (founding member of R.E.M), and Kenny Wayne Shepherd on guitar, will be joined by special guest Ann Wilson of Heart. Once again, this is a free event and open to the public, but tickets are required.

“I began this collection to preserve, protect and share historic artifacts with others in hopes of telling stories of our shared past and culture and inspiring people to dream big and strive for great things in life,” said Jim Irsay. “I am only a steward of this collection, so it’s my job to share it with as many people as I can. That’s why we’re especially excited to share this special evening with our friends, fans and neighbors right here in Indianapolis.”

The Jim Irsay Collection

The Jim Irsay Collection is highlighted by instruments and items owned and used by some of the greatest artists in music history, including Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Prince, James Brown, Eric Clapton, Sir Elton John, Johnny Cash, Jerry Garcia, Les Paul, David Gilmour, Jim Morrison, Pete Townshend, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, John Coltrane, and more.

(photo courtesy Indianapolis Colts)

Outside of music, the collection includes such historic items as:

  • An 1823 William J. Stone printing of the Declaration of Independence, one of the first exact “facsimiles” of the final signed document.
  • Renowned American author Jack Kerouac’s original 119-foot On the Road scroll.
  • The original manuscript for Alcoholics Anonymous’ Big Book, the organization’s founding document.
  • The original 1777 Continental Congress proclamation designating Thanksgiving as a national holiday.
  • Handwritten documents and artifacts from women’s suffrage pioneer Susan B. Anthony.
  • A Jackie Robinson game-used bat from 1953.
  • Artifacts and signed documents from numerous U.S. Presidents, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and others.
  • Muhammad Ali’s 1965 first walkout robe that bore his new name, and his boxing shoes from the 1975 “Thrilla’ in Manilla” vs. Joe Frazier.
(photo courtesy Indianapolis Colts)