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Backstreet Cultural Museum

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Attractions Details

📌 Address

1531 St Philip St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA

Opening Hours

10:00 AM - 4:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

Free

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expert
Colm
Local tour guide
"Visit the Backstreet Cultural Museum in New Orleans during the week when it's less crowded to have more personal time with the exhibits. Also, check for any special events or workshops they might be hosting, as the museum occasionally offers unique opportunities to engage with the local traditions and crafts."

What is Backstreet Cultural Museum?

The Backstreet Cultural Museum is a hidden gem nestled in the heart of New Orleans' historic Tremé neighborhood. It showcases an extensive collection of costumes, memorabilia, and photographs that celebrate the vibrant street culture of the city. Here, you find the true spirit of Mardi Gras Indians, jazz funerals, social aid and pleasure clubs, and second-line parades, all integral parts of New Orleans' cultural fabric.

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I often tell visitors that if they want to understand the soul of New Orleans beyond the typical tourist spots, the Backstreet Cultural Museum is the place to be. Its exhibits breathe life into the stories and traditions passed down through generations. And with every artifact, there's a story yearning to be told; stories of community, resilience, and artistry that define our city.

History of Backstreet Cultural Museum

The Backstreet Cultural Museum was originally founded by Sylvester Francis in 1999. Francis, a local resident with a passion for preserving the history of New Orleans' African American community, started by filming Mardi Gras Indian gatherings and jazz funerals with his Super 8 camera. His collection outgrew his own home, leading him to establish the museum in a former funeral home on St. Claude Avenue.

Over the years, the museum became a custodian of costumes, photographs, and memorabilia, all donated by community members who trust the museum to honor their heritage. The museum's collection grew organically, reflecting the trust and relationships built with the members of the traditions it represents. It's more than just a museum; it's a labor of love that protects and raises awareness of these unique cultural practices.

Why is Backstreet Cultural Museum Important?

The Backstreet Cultural Museum is important because it serves as a safeguard for some of the most unique and enduring traditions of African American culture in New Orleans. It's a sanctuary for the history and artifacts of cultural practices that are often overlooked or misunderstood by mainstream media and cultural institutions. The museum educates visitors on the depth and significance of these customs, while also serving as a community center for locals to connect and celebrate their heritage.

Additionally, the museum plays a key role in keeping these traditions alive by not only preserving their past but also by actively engaging with the present-day culture bearers. By providing a space for the culture to be studied, appreciated, and passed on to younger generations, the Backstreet Cultural Museum plays an integral part in maintaining the vibrancy and continuity of New Orleans' living traditions.

Things to Do & See at Backstreet Cultural Museum

Once you step inside the Backstreet Cultural Museum, you are greeted with an explosion of colors and creativity. The hand-sewn Mardi Gras Indian suits, each a masterpiece requiring thousands of hours to create, are a feast for the eyes. They tell a story of dedication, community, and the celebration of life that echoes through the streets of New Orleans. Visitors can also see actual video footage of the events and traditions on display to get a sense of the atmosphere and sounds of celebrations past.

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Exploring the nooks and crannies of the museum, you'll find memorabilia from the prominent social aid and pleasure clubs, items from jazz funerals, including programs and photographs, and a collection of second-line paraphernalia. But it's not just looking—there's often the chance for impromptu storytelling from locals and sometimes even live performances. And for those interested in deepening their knowledge, the museum hosts discussions and lectures on the cultural significance and historical context of these traditions.

Before you leave, make sure to spend a moment in the gift shop. Here, you can take home a piece of New Orleans' culture, whether it’s books, DVDs, or handcrafted items made by local artists. It's the perfect way to remember your visit to this cornerstone of New Orleans culture and to continue supporting the preservation and celebration of these vibrant traditions.

Frequently asked questions

What is the Backstreet Cultural Museum in New Orleans?

The Backstreet Cultural Museum in New Orleans is a museum that celebrates and preserves the unique cultural traditions of the city’s African American community, particularly the Mardi Gras Indians, jazz funerals, and second-line parades.

Where is the Backstreet Cultural Museum located?

The Backstreet Cultural Museum is located in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans, an area known for its rich African American history and cultural heritage.

What can visitors expect to see at the Backstreet Cultural Museum?

Visitors to the Backstreet Cultural Museum can expect to see an array of exhibits featuring Mardi Gras Indian costumes, photographs, memorabilia from jazz funerals, and artifacts from second-line parades.

How did the Backstreet Cultural Museum get started?

The Backstreet Cultural Museum was started by Sylvester Francis, a local resident who began documenting the cultural activities of the Treme community in the 1960s and eventually amassed a collection that became the foundation of the museum.

Is there an admission fee for the Backstreet Cultural Museum?

Yes, there is an admission fee for the Backstreet Cultural Museum. The fee helps support the preservation of the museum's collections and the continuation of its cultural programming.

Attractions Details

📌 Address

1531 St Philip St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA

Opening Hours

10:00 AM - 4:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

Free

Find it on google maps