It’s been just over three years since the death of Lou Reed, and on what would have been the legend’s 75th birthday, his widow — and avant garde performance artist — Laurie Anderson announced that the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts will be acquiring Reed’s complete archives. Independent archivist Don Fleming was given the reins to oversee the collection and sift through items that had previously spent almost a decade in storage. According to Billboard, the newly-acquired archive contains:
300 linear feet of paper records, electronic records, and photographs, as well as approximately 3,600 audio and 1,300 video recordings. The collection documents his life as a musician, composer, poet, writer, photographer, and tai-chi student. Musically, it spans a career that began with his 1958 Freeport High School band, The Shades; his job as a staff songwriter for the budget music label, Pickwick Records, and his rise to prominence through The Velvet Underground and subsequent solo career, to his final performances in 2013.
In an interview with Rolling Stone‘s David Fricke, Anderson said of the most interesting thing about the archive is “his curiosity.” Adding, “He is relentlessly finding out about new things. You see it again and again, in each new band he formed, whatever it was. It was all ‘Let’s move on… He wasn’t afraid. He wasn’t trying to please anybody. There just isn’t anybody like that now. We’re all kind of going, ‘Well, was that alright for you?’ He didn’t care. He had that need to just keep doing what he believed in. You feel that come across in the archive.”
Parts of the archive have already been made available at both the Library for the Performing Arts and Stephen A. Schwarzman Building to celebrate Reed’s birthday, with an excerpt of a different recording from the archive playing in the Library’s cafe at the top of every hour. Additionally, displays of artifacts, notebooks, and other materials that have never before been available to the public have also opened at the Library, which will remain available through March 20.
More artifacts and recordings will be made available as Anderson and her team continue to work with the NYPL to process the entire archive throughout 2017.