C.F.W. Coker Award: Lou Reed Papers

The Lou Reed papers processed by the Archives Unit on behalf of the Music Division in the Library for the Performing Arts of the New York Public Library is the 2019 recipient of the C.F.W. Coker Award from the Society of American Archivists (SAA). The award recognizes finding aids, finding aid systems, innovative development in archival description, or descriptive tools that enable archivists to produce more effective finding aids. To merit consideration for the award, nominees must set national standards, represent a model for archives description, or otherwise have a substantial impact on national descriptive practice.

The Lou Reed papers serves as a model for finding aids by rigorously applying archival principles and standards in this large, multiformatted collection that included audiovisual and born-digital materials. This recent acquisition dates from 1958 to 2015 and chronicles Reed's career through audio and video recordings, office files, photographs, artwork, and press clippings. The collection details Reed’s musical output, as well as the administrative and business dealings involved in producing records and touring worldwide. The New York Public Library was innovative in its approach to efficiently and expediently describe the contents given the size of the collection, which totaled more than 90 linear feet and 2.5 terabytes. In particular, New York Public Library’s use of data migration to combine minimal processing with item-level description maximizes the use of this collection without expending an exorbitant amount of labor on the project. In addition, the finding aid’s embedded digital content contributes to setting standards of preserving a collection’s context in the digital realm.