A native of Red Bank, New Jersey, William James "Count" Basie (1904–1984) was one of the giants of jazz, a global icon, and still one of the most influential, popular, and recognized figures in American music. The Institute acquired Basie's papers and artifacts in 2018 and is responsible for ensuring its long-term preservation. The roughly 200-cubic-foot collection, consisting of more than 1,000 items, is unparalleled in its size and thorough documentation of Basie's life and career, as well as those of his wife, Catherine, and daughter, Diane.
The collection is an essential resource for researchers in jazz, music, post-war American history, and American culture, especially black American culture. It is also critical for scholars, educators, writers, filmmakers, students, and the general public because of its breadth and depth.