As reported, the archive contains “approximately 300 linear feet of paper records, electronic records, and photographs, and approximately 3,600 audio and 1,300 video recordings.”
The archive was donated to the Library by Lauri Anderson, late Reed’s wife, an esteemed performing artist herself. As she told the Guardian, “He gave them all to me and I didn’t know what to do with it, all of these papers and sounds.” As she further explained it took her and a team she engaged for this task three years to go through all the material Reed left behind.
Reed, a multi-talented workaholic and one of the men behind Velvet Underground, one of the greatest and most important bands in modern music, was not only a musician, composer, and poet, but also a writer and photographer.
As Jonathan Hiam, the music and recorded sound curator at the New York Public Library, explained, the archive includes everything from a notebook of Reed’s favorite restaurants to invoices and his professional photographs. His personal collection of books, LPs, and singles is also included. But as Hiam points out, the most important part of the archive is a database of numerous recordings that can be heard at the library’s kiosks. “Everything from live recordings to studio outtakes, demo recordings and videos, all available to scroll through and enjoy in an instant.”
Lou Reed passed away on October 2013, but March 2019, the month the archive opened, marks what would have been Reed’s 77th birthday. Opening the archive in a New York institution is quite fitting since a big part of Reeds’ work bears a connection to all aspects of life in that city.