The Backstreet Cultural Museum in New Orleans

The Backstreet Cultural Museum in New Orleans

#NewOrleans is a place filled to the brim with #history and #culture. From the #foodanddrink, to the architecture there is a fascinating story behind it all. With plenty of museums or galleries to visit and yearly festivals, there is never a dull moment in this colourful city.


I’ve been to New Orleans twice, and I loved the city right away. Something about the New Orleans gelled with me. On my first trip, I traveled alone (my favourite way to travel), and I spent my time wandering around, listening to music, eating delicious food, taking photos, and writing. It was like my version of heaven.

It was like my version of heaven
Outside The Backstreet Cultural Museum in New Orleans
Outside The Backstreet Cultural Museum in New Orleans

The Backstreet Cultural Museum - One place I had wanted to visit in New Orleans was The Backstreet Cultural Museum. It’s a local museum run by New Orleans resident Francis Sylvester. The museum details some unique pieces from the African-American community in New Orleans.   

I learned about this museum when I watched the documentary When The Levees Broke. In the background of one scene of the film was a sign saying “Backstreet Cultural Museum.” I went online and read about the museum and its mission to preserve a unique part of New Orleans culture. One day I knew I would visit The Backstreet Cultural Museum.

The Backstreet Cultural Museum has displays on other important aspects of African-American traditions in New Orleans like this on the Sudan Social Aid and Pleasure Club.
The Backstreet Cultural Museum has displays on other important aspects of African-American traditions in New Orleans like this on the Sudan Social Aid and Pleasure Club.

History and Culture - If anyone has watched the television show Treme, or knows a bit about New Orleans history and culture, then you may have heard about the Mardi Gras Indians. Here’s a little bit of about The Mardi Gras Indians from the website Mardi Gras New Orleans. “Mardi Gras is full of secrets, and the Mardi Gras Indians are as much a part of that secret society as any other carnival organization. The Mardi Gras Indians are comprised, in large part, of the African-American communities of New Orleans’ inner city. They have paraded for well over a century, yet their parade is perhaps the least recognized Mardi Gras tradition.”

from  $8

Tour of the Backstreet Cultural Museum - New Orleans

Culture
 1116 Saint Claude Avenue, New Orleans, LA, United States
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Talking briefly to museum owner Frances Sylvester, we learned the chiefs of the Mardi Gras Indians come up with a design for their suits in their head. They never sketch or draw out the designs in advance.
Talking briefly to museum owner Frances Sylvester, we learned the chiefs of the Mardi Gras Indians come up with a design for their suits in their head. They never sketch or draw out the designs in advance.
Each Mardi Gras Indian suit is hand sewn using only new materials and beads. A new suit has to be created for each person in a tribe in time for Mardi Gras.
Each Mardi Gras Indian suit is hand sewn using only new materials and beads. A new suit has to be created for each person in a tribe in time for Mardi Gras.

My Visit to The Backstreet Cultural Museum - On my first trip to New Orleans, I procrastinated and tried to go to The Backstreet Cultural Museum on my last day in the city. Good point to note – if you want to see or do something on your travels you probably shouldn’t wait until the end of your trip. By the time, I got to the museum it had closed for the day.

if you want to see or do something on your travels you probably shouldn’t wait until the end of your trip
The level of detail that goes into making each of these handcrafted suits is pretty amazing. It can take up to a year to create each one.
The level of detail that goes into making each of these handcrafted suits is pretty amazing. It can take up to a year to create each one.

Enter my second trip to New Orleans, which was an all expense weekend trip that I won (true story). As the contest winner I was able to bring a guest, so I invited my friend to join me. Our trip was very short. We only had 36 hours in New Orleans, but since I’d been to New Orleans before (she hadn’t), I wasn’t stressed about trying to see and do everything. I told my friend the only thing I really wanted to do was visit The Backstreet Culture Museum.

I really wanted to do was visit The Backstreet Culture Museum

The Backstreet Museum has information about many African-American traditions in New Orleans, including jazz funerals. There are tributes to several New Orleans residents who have passed away, like this one for Treme Brass Band drummer Lionel Batiste.
The Backstreet Museum has information about many African-American traditions in New Orleans, including jazz funerals. There are tributes to several New Orleans residents who have passed away, like this one for Treme Brass Band drummer Lionel Batiste.

Our trip to New Orleans was short and very busy. We didn’t get to The Backstreet Cultural Museum until an hour before they closed. One thing I didn’t know on my previous trip was that the museum operates out of Mr. Sylvester’s home. Even with the hours of operation listed on the website it’s best to phone ahead and confirm you’ll be able to get in when you are planning to visit. Although I would have liked to spend more time there the fact, I got another chance to visit the museum (and only a few months after my first trip) was fantastic. The Backstreet Cultural Museum is small, but the amount of items on display is pretty incredible. Here are just a few photos I took during my visit.

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