A Passage Through Time

The Historic New Orleans Collection offers a glimpse at the past.
Upper Pontalba buildings; photograph by Robert S. Brantley and Jan White Brantley; from “Henry Howard: Louisiana’s Architect” (THNOC and PAP 2015); The Historic New Orleans Collection, gift of Jan White Brantley and Robert S. Brantley, 2015.0415.33

With our tricentennial on the horizon, the history and architecture of New Orleans is a draw for many visitors. A wonderful resource to learn more about our past is located right in the heart of the French Quarter.

The Historic New Orleans Collection is a museum and research center, as well as a publisher. Founded in 1966, their mission is to preserve the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. With exhibitions at two locations, 533 Royal Street and 410 Chartres Street, there is always a wealth of insight to be gained from a visit.

Their current exhibitions include areas related to architecture, WWI, watercolor paintings and even duck decoys. Architecture is the star this weekend with the annual Williams Research Symposium “Perspectives on New Orleans Architecture: Past, Present, Future”. The symposium will examine topics ranging from trends and cultural forces to the impact of individual genius. It will be held over the weekend at the Hotel Monteleone.

If an entire weekend symposium on architecture isn’t on your itinerary, there is an exhibit in conjunction with the symposium called “An Architect and His City: Henry Howard’s New Orleans 1837-1884”. It will bring to light the elusive Howard through pivotal times in New Orleans’ past, from the yellow fever epidemic through the Civil War and into Reconstruction. Featured items include maps, rare books and manuscripts, as well as historic and contemporary photographs.

For WWI history buffs, the exhibit “At Home and at War: New Orleans 1914-1919” uses a collection of scrapbooks, photographs and letters to share the stories of New Orleanians at home and abroad and how the war impacted their lives.

Fine art enthusiasts can view rare watercolor painting that span 200 years in the exhibit “Awash with Color: Seldom-Seen Watercolor Paintings by Louisiana Artists, 1789-1989”. Approximately 70 paintings are on display by artists including Walter Anderson and Alfred Jacob Miller, and more obscure artists such as Joseph Richards and William Thomas Smedley. The curator included an artist’s paint box, sketchbooks and a porcelain watercolor tray to make the experience of creation more tangible.

And if hunting and folk art is your interest, you can visit The Anne and Dick Stephens Collection of Louisiana Decoys and Wildfowl Artifacts. More than 300 decoys and other pieces were donated to the Historic Collection and a portion of that collection is on display at their Orientation Center. Works by 32 artisans, including the recently honored Andrew “Tan” Brunet, will span from 1925 to 2012.

If you can believe it, it’s free to visit all of these exhibitions. In addition to the self-guided tours, however, there are docent-guided tours available for $5 per person, which is well worth it. A donation can also be made upon your visit. The Historic Collection is a nonprofit organization and relies on support from individuals and foundations to maintain their wonderful work.



Categories: Tourism Biz