January 23, 2022

New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Opens Lou Reed Archive and also Issues 6,000 Special Edition Library Cards

Note: Acquisition of the Lou Reed Archive by NYPL was first announced on March 14, 2017. 

Today, the archive opens for public use.

From NYPL:

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts announced today that the Lou Reed Archive is now available for the public to use.

Special Edition Library Card

To mark the opening of the collection, the Library is also issuing 6,000 limited edition library cards featuring Mick Rock’s iconic image of Reed. The special cards are available exclusively at The Library for the Performing Arts, located at Lincoln Center. Additionally, the Library will celebrate the opening of the Lou Reed collection with a display at The Library for the Performing Arts, and offer special public programs.

Photo: Jonathan Blanc/The New York Public Library

The special-edition Lou Reed New York Public Library cards are available now at The Library for the Performing Arts’s circulation desk, located on the first floor.

The Archive

Users are now able to access the Lou Reed Archive — including all paper-based, audio, and moving image materials — from the Music and Recorded Sound Division on the third floor of The Library for the Performing Arts. For a guide to accessing the collection, visit nypl.org/LouReed.

Also beginning today, The Library for the Performing Arts will showcase materials from the Lou Reed Archive in a month-long third-floor display marking the 30th anniversary of Reed’s New York. The display traces the album’s history from conception to production, using materials from the archive to illustrate the process and show users how to engage with the research collection.

Public programs to celebrate Reed’s archive at The Library for the Performing Arts include an evening event tonight in the Library’s cafe, and a one-day listening room installation on March 28 in the Astor Gallery featuring selections from the Archive’s collection of demos, studio sessions, interviews and live performances.

The Lou Reed Archive, which The Library for the Performing Arts acquired in 2017, measures approximately 300 linear feet of paper records, electronic records, and photographs, and approximately 3,600 audio and 1,300 video recordings. The Archive documents the history of Reed’s life as a musician, composer, poet, writer, photographer, and tai-chi student through his own extensive papers, photographs, recordings and other collections of materials. The archive spans Reed’s creative life–from 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. The collection comprises studio notes, galleys and proofs, master and unreleased recordings, business papers, personal correspondence, poster art, fan gifts, rare printed material and Reed’s substantial photography collection.

Archive Overview

The Lou Reed Archive documents the history of Reed’s life as a musician, composer, poet, writer, photographer, and tai-chi student through his own extensive papers, photographs, recordings and other collections of materials. The archive spans Reed’s creative life–from his 1958 Freeport High School band, The Shades, to his final performances in 2013.

The Lou Reed Archive is held within the research collections of The New York Public Library.  The primary service point for the Archive following processing will be the Music and Recorded Sound Division  at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts located at Lincoln Center in Manhattan.

The heart of the archive is the collected material from Sister Ray Enterprises. Reed formed SRE to oversee his tours and his recording catalog. Recording sessions and the promotional work surrounding his releases are thoroughly detailed in studio notes, related session tapes, record label correspondence, test pressings, and album art notes/mock-ups/match prints. Reed’s history as a live performer is deeply detailed by photographs, audio and video recordings, posters, handbills, extensive tour itineraries, agreements, receipts, correspondence, laminates, and passes. There are extensive examples of U.S. and international press in binders, scrapbooks and folders for Reed’s albums, performances, theatre works, books, and photography exhibits.

The Lou Reed Archive includes:

  • Original manuscript, lyrics, poetry and handwritten tai-chi notes
  • Photographs of Reed, including artist prints and inscriptions by the photographers
  • Tour itineraries, agreements, road manager notes and paperwork
  • 600+ hours of live recordings, demos, studio recordings and interviews
  • Reed’s own extensive photography work
  • Album, book, and tour artwork; mock-ups, proofs and match-prints
  • Lou Reed album and concert posters, handbills, programs, and promotional items
  • Lou Reed press for albums, tours, performances, books, and photography exhibits
  • Fan mail
  • Personal collections of books, LPs and 45s
  • The collection documents collaborations, friendships, and relationships with Delmore Schwartz, Andy Warhol, John Cale, Maureen Tucker, Sterling Morrison, Mick Rock, Robert Quine, Sylvia Ramos, Doc Pomus, Václav Havel, Hal Willner, John Zorn, Robert Wilson, Julian Schnabel, and Laurie Anderson.

Audio and Video Materials

The audio and video collection includes over 600 hours of original demos; studio recordings; live recordings; and interviews from 1965 to 2013. All of Reed’s major tours and many of his guest performances are represented in the collection.

Lou Reed’s iconic persona was captured in photographs by Mick Rock, Billy Name, Renaud Monfourney, Waring Abbott, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Mark Seliger, Guido Harari, Clifford Ross, Len Prince, David Gahr, Asako, Oldrich Skacha, Roy Tee, Steve Tucker, Paul Schirnhofer, Chuck Pulin, Sanford Schor, Judy Schiller, Simon Friedmann, Ivo Gil, Roby Schize, Greg Fuchs, Peter Locke, Elena Carminati, Moni Kellerman, Xavier Lambours, Henri ter Hall, Herbie Knott, and Jutta Brandt. These noted photographers who trained their lenses on Lou at concerts or for album artwork and press features are represented in the archive by copies or original artist proofs, many of which are inscribed. This collection of photographs covers the extent of his artistic career from a 1958 variety show performance by The Shade’s to Lou’s final public performances in 2013. The collection includes contact sheets, negatives and unpublished photographs.

Reed’s own photography is also represented in the collection. Reed began working with photography in the 1970s when, inspired by the work of Billy Name, he modified a video camera to make high-contrast images. Over the years he captured over 10,000 images. In 2006 at the Steven Kasher Gallery Reed held his first major New York photography exhibit, Lou Reed: New York. He published several photo books, including Romanticism, a series of landscapes shot largely with a digital camera converted to create infrared images. This work was shown in 2009 at the Adamson Gallery in Washington, DC. Reed took photographs in New York, Scotland, Denmark, Spain, Rome, China and Big Sur.

The archive gives a comprehensive view of the creative process and business interactions of one the 20th century’s major musical figures. The collections document his Velvet Underground albums and performances, his solo albums, his extensive solo tours, collaborative music projects, theatre works, books and articles that he authored, his own photography, and his personal tai-chi studies. Reed was a life-long resident and a uniquely New York City songwriter, performer and photographer. The archive documents NYC through the words, music and photographs of one of the city’s most notable creative artists.

Lou Reed’s uncompromising artistry has inspired generations of musicians and artists. The Lou Reed Archive is a matchless record of Reed’s iconic career and a vital resource for scholarship, study, exhibition and dissemination of his work, as well as a dynamic resource for studies of the cultural and musical renaissance that Reed significantly influenced.

Additional Resources

NEW: A Lou Reed Reading List (via NYPL)

From December 8, 2009

NYPL Podcast #72: Lou Reed on Playing Outside the Box
From August 4, 2015

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.