Sunday, January 2, 2011

Louis Armstrong's Queens House of Jazz Aims to Boost Visits, Become Most Visited Spot in U.S. by Nicholas Hirshon - NY Daily News

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Among the thousands of photos at the museum are shot of trumpeter in his living room admiring a 1930s portrait. Below, bus that carried Louis Armstrong Orchestra on tour.
The Queens house of jazz great Louis Armstrong is vying to someday rank alongside three of the most visited historic homes in the U.S. - which draw about 40 times its tourist total.

"One day we will be on a par with Monticello and Mount Vernon and Graceland," said Michael Cogswell, the museum director at Satchmo's Corona home. "It takes time to get there. You have to do it step by step."
Cogswell said he hopes two initiatives - cataloging the museum's entire collection online by the end of 2011 and opening a visitor center in 2013 - will raise the home's profile.
Still, Armstrong's tiny 107thSt. residence has far to go before it can match the crowds that flock to the sprawling estates of two founding fathers - George Washington and Thomas Jefferson - and rock legend Elvis Presley.
About 12,000 tourists come to the Louis Armstrong House Museum each year.
By comparison, Jefferson's Monticello in Virginia lures 450,000 visitors annually, Presley's Graceland in Memphis grabs 600,000 and Washington's Mount Vernon in Virginia attracts more than 1 million.
But Armstrong fans contend the African-American trumpeter and singer - famous for hits like "What a Wonderful World" and "Hello Dolly!" - deserves respect for helping to create and popularize jazz.
Though Armstrong died in 1971, the Armstrong museum's website brags his influence remains "universal, unmatched and very much alive today."
To make his work more accessible, the museum recently finished cataloging its three largest collections online, offering the ability to browse the archive's mix of sound recordings, photos, letters and more.
The catalog is available at
Cogswell dismissed concerns that posting the archives online may make tourists less likely to visit the physical museum, which is run by Queens College.
"This is our mission - to share Louis Armstrong's legacy with the world," he said, adding online access typically "generates more interest than ever" in historic figures, especially musicians.
"The same thing happened with the birth of recordings back in the early 20th century," he said.
Cogswell and project archivist Ricky Riccardi also noted that researchers must still travel to the Corona home to view or listen to the materials.
"If you actually want to read it and quote from it, then you actually have to come here," said Riccardi, who is working on cataloging the museum's remaining memorabilia.
The museum also recently completed a two-year process to design its long-awaited visitor center opposite the frame house, where Armstrong and his wife, Lucille, moved in 1943 and spent the rest of their lives.
Plans call for a nightclub-like "jazz room" with cafe tables, chairs and theatrical lighting that can host small concerts, lectures and film screenings.
Cogswell said the new setup will allow the museum to host concerts year-round for the first time. Performances are now held outdoors in the house's garden.
"We have to schedule them in the summertime and then pray that it doesn't rain," he said with a laugh.