Louis Armstrong’s archive opens to the public in Queens, New York

Louis Armstrong’s archive has a new home in Queens, New York. The Louis Armstrong Center, a $26 million facility, has opened across the street from the Louis Armstrong House Museum. 

The centre will house the 60,000 items in the archive, bringing them back to the block. The inaugural exhibition at the Louis Armstrong Center was curated by pianist Jason Moran and titled “Here to Stay.” The exhibition features Armstrong’s trumpet, a few of his mixed-media collages, and two of his passports.

According to NPR, Louis Armstrong was already a worldwide star — a seasoned headliner with a Hollywood profile — when his wife, Lucille, surprised him with the purchase of a modest house in Corona, Queens, in 1943. 

He got his first glimpse of the place fresh off tour, the outlet adds, rolling up in a taxicab. (He invited the cab driver to come in and check it out with him.) “The more Lucille showed me around the house the more thrill’d I got,” Armstrong later wrote. “I felt very grand over it all.”

For the rest of his life, Armstrong filled the house with his presence, practicing his horn and entertaining friends. He also presided over a world of his own making: homemade tape recordings, scrapbook photo collages, an outpouring of words either clattered on a typewriter or scrawled in a looping longhand. After he died in 1971, Lucille began to envision this mass of material as an archive, making plans for its preservation.

The Louis Armstrong Archive is the world’s largest for any single jazz musician and was established at Queens College in 1991. The brick-faced home, already a registered landmark, opened to the public as the Louis Armstrong House Museum in 2003. The Louis Armstrong Center will greatly expand access to the museum and its archive.


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