12/27/10

Louis Armstrong House Museum Puts Archive Online

Collection includes thousands of recordings, photos and documents by and about the legendary trumpeter

On December 16, the Louis Armstrong House Museum in the Corona neighborhood of Queens in New York City announced that it is cataloging its entire collection on its website. Three of its largest collections have already been put online and the Museum expects to have the entire catalog online by the end of 2011. "Now anyone anywhere can go to our site and access our collection of Armstrong material," said Michael Cogswell, director of the Museum. "They can listen to his tapes, see his record collection, look at his photos and even learn about his trumpets."

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Inside the Louis Armstrong House
By Melissa Mergner
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Inside the Louis Armstrong House
By Melissa Mergner
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The bathroom inside the Louis Armstrong House
By Melissa Mergner
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Inside the Louis Armstrong House
By Melissa Mergner
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Inside the Louis Armstrong House
By Melissa Mergner
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Louis Armstrong in his bathroom at home
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Louis and Lucille Armstrong at home
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School group tours the Louis Armstrong House

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The collections include more than 5,000 sound recordings, 15,000 photographs, 30 films, 100 scrapbooks, 20 linear feet of letters and papers, and six trumpets. As documented by JT's Nat Hentoff in an earlier Final Chorus column, the Museum recently acquired the Jack Bradley Collection, which was considered the world's largest private collection of Armstrong material. Bradley was a photographer and lifelong friend of Armstrong's. In October 2009, the Museum got a grant from the Museums for America program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services in order to help pay the costs of the massive archiving project. Ricky Riccardi, an Armstrong scholar, was hired to do the massive job of archiving the material. "Working with this collection has been an absolute dream come true, but getting to share it online with Armstrong lovers from around the world really makes this something special," said Riccardi, in a press release provided at a reception at the Museum. "And it's not just for Armstrong experts; the online catalog will appeal to music fans, art historians, 20th century pop culture buffs, musicians, photographers, you name it. There's something for everyone."

Amongst his many unique talents and habits, Louis Armstrong was a bit of a pack rack. The trumpeter would obsessively collect postcards, clippings and correspondence. In addition to typing up his own thoughts and ideas, Armstrong would also make recordings of himself, talking and playing. Armstrong would decorate the tape boxes with unique collages of his own making. Those collages were included in a recent coffeetable book put together by Steven Brower called The Wonderful World and Art of Louis Armstrong (Abrams Press).

At a reception at the Museum, Cogswell also announced that the Museum will be expanding its facilities to include a visitor's center and a performance venue, which they hope to have complete by February 2013. Armstrong and his wife Lucille moved to the house in Corona, Queens in 1943 and both spent the rest of the lives in that modest house on 107th Street. Their residence, with its original furnishings, is a National Historic Landmark administered by Queens College of the City University of New York in Flushing. The Museum offers 40-minute guided tours of the house. "Everything we do promotes the legacy of Louis Armstrong," said Cogswell. "We're the only national landmark devoted to a jazz musician that's open to the public six days a week."

For more information about the Louis Armstrong House Museum and its activities, you can visit their website.

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