Lou Reed’s Archives Acquired by NYPL

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Musician and Artist, Lou Reed passed away in 2013, leaving an immense amount of material behind to his wife, Laurie Anderson.  With no instructions whatsoever of how to archive, where to archive, and who to involve, Anderson reached out to the New York Public Library after seeing an article in the New York Times about a library program to digitize archival material.

It is always an indigestible task to sort through a deceased one’s possessions; Laurie Anderson described the time leading up to the initial decision and start of the acquisitions process as “like a 15-story building falling on me.”

Anderson’s main concerns about the content being archived were for it to be accessible to the public; to not “disappear into an archive for only people who have white gloves,” and to be housed in New York, remembering and regarding Lou Reed as a “kind of Mr. New York.”  Included in Reed’s archives are paperwork, objects—such as sweaters knitted by fans and a tape recorder purchased on tour, photographs, and recordings of over 600 hours of: demo-tapes, concerts, poetry readings, and more.  The collection itself currently occupies 300 linear feet of shelf space in Anderson’s Tribeca apartment .The contents will be made available to patrons of the Library of Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, estimated to be complete in 2018.

Apparently, Lou Reed was no sentimentalist when it came to archiving his own work.  He was known to destroy drafts of working progresses, and collect various legal papers, receipts, and the like in archaic, disorganized ways.  The archive itself is not complete, and may never be, as there is little documentation//artifacts from Reed’s time in the Velvet Underground or his correspondence with artist and early band manager, Andy Warhol.

In the Library of Performing Arts shelves, Reed’s tapes of such hits as ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ and ‘Sweet Jane’ will appear side-by-side with such musical archival anomalies as Arturo Toscanini’s papers and a lock of Ludwig van Beethoven’s hair.

-Kelsey Gallagher, LIS-653, Wednesdays 1130-230

Sisario, Ben. “Lou Reed Archives Head to New York Public Library.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Mar. 2017. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.

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by Hugh McLeod

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Pratt Institute School of Information
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