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Diving Into The Digital Archives of
The Louis Armstrong House

Blog
Diving Into The Digital Archives of The Louis Armstrong House

04.01.2019

Written by Leyla Aksu

Opening its doors in 1994, in the house once occupied by legendary jazz musician Louis Armstrong and his wife, Lucille Wilson, the Louis Armstrong House museum is now accessible to jazz lovers all over the world. Previously open to the public by appointment only, the countless artifacts and hidden treasures in the New York archive, one of the largest in the world to be dedicated to a single artist, are now just a click away.

Louis Armstrong and his wife had moved to their house in Corona, New York in 1943 and lived there until his passing in 1971. Subsequently, the house was left to the city of New York, with Wilson requesting it be turned into a museum celebrating the life and legacy of her husband -- the Louis Armstrong House. In 2016, in preparation of the 75th anniversary of the musician’s move to the neighborhood, the museum embarked on a lengthy digitization project, hoping to carry their entire collection online, and finally went live November, 2018.

Filled with artifacts culled from an unparalleled career spanning over five decades, the archive includes not only the family’s private collection of personal belongings, but thousands of previously unseen photographs, video and audio recordings, letters, newspaper articles, Armstrong’s personal sheet music and paperwork, as well as special collages and scrapbooks put together by Armstrong himself, going as far back as the 1920’s.

Consisting of twelve separate collections, including those of Phoebe Jacobs, former vice president of the Louis Armstrong Education Foundation, and Ernie Anderson, Armstrong’s concert producer and overseas publicist, one of the most exciting features of the archives lies in its boundless collection of private photographs. Newly seen images captured by Armstrong’s close friend and photographer Jack Bradley, photographs of the Armstrong’s at home, in the studio, and backstage, captured through the lens of Paul Studer, and a group of Maynard Frank’s images, once thought to be lost, are just a few of the highlights.

A meticulous collector, sensitive to his image, representations, and the changing tides of music throughout his career, Armstrong not only kept tabs on all that was written about him, but recorded numerous reels of his own conversations and interviews. Now featured as part of the digitized archive (with help from Grammy-winning sound engineer Andreas Meyer), Armstrong fans now have access to hundreds of hours of songs, spoken word recordings, concert tapes, and interviews that were never before released.

Preserving the legacy of not only one of the most iconic stars in jazz but also an indelible part of African-American history, the digital archives of the Louis Armstrong House continues to keep Armstrong’s star alive in a new age.

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