The Backstreet Cultural Museum in New Orleans

The Backstreet Cultural Museum in New Orleans

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

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 first heard of this museum when I watched the Spike Lee documentary When The Levees Broke. In the background of one scene 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. I knew I had to visit the Backstreet Cultural Museum.

History and Culture

If you’ve watched the television series Treme then you may have heard about the Mardi Gras Indians, which are featured in this museum. Here’s a little bit 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’s inner city. They have paraded for well over a century, yet their parade is perhaps the least recognized Mardi Gras tradition.”

My Visit to the Backstreet Cultural Museum

On my first trip to New Orleans, I procrastinated and didn’t visit the Backstreet Cultural Museum until my last day. A good point to note – if you want to see or do something on your travels you shouldn’t wait until the end of your trip. By the time, I got to the museum it had closed.

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. We only had 36 hours in New Orleans. Since I’d been to New Orleans before (she had not), I wasn’t stressed about trying to see and do everything. I told my friend the only thing I wanted to do was visit the Backstreet Cultural Museum.

Second Time’s The Charm

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. 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 items on display are fascinating. Here are a few photos I took during my visit.

The Backstreet Cultural Museum in New Orleans
Outside the Backstreet Cultural Museum in New Orleans.
Tribute to Lionel Batiste, a New Orleans jazz and blues musician who died earlier in 2012.
Mardi Gras costumes at The Backstreet Cultural Museum
Mardi Gras costumes at the Backstreet Cultural Museum in New Orleans. Every year the various Mardi Gras Indian tribes make their costumes to use during Mardi Gras celebrations. Tribes create new costumes every year.
The Backstreet Cultural Museum receives donations of some of the costumes from previous Mardi Gras celebrations.
Close up of a Mardi Gras Indian costume at the Backstreet Cultural Museum in New Orleans. Each is sewn by hand, including all the detailed beading.

If you are going to New Orleans, I recommend a visit to the Backstreet Cultural Museum. It will show you a different side of the culture and history of New Orleans that you might not know.

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Things To Know
The Backstreet Cultural Museum is at 1116 Henriette Delille Street in New Orleans. Admission is $8/person. Be sure to phone the museum in advance to ensure they will be open when you plan to visit.
While in New Orleans my friend and I stayed at the lovely Blake Hotel New Orleans in the Central Business District. This stay was free as I had won a trip to New Orleans. If you’re looking for a place to stay in New Orleans there are a variety of hotels you can book here.

Have you been to The Backstreet Cultural Museum?

10 thoughts on “The Backstreet Cultural Museum in New Orleans”

  1. OK- this is too cool! Being from the area, I’ve never even heard of this museum! When I get back to Nola, I’m going to check it out! I’m a culture addict… this is perfect!

  2. It’s a small museum and completely off the tourist trail, unless you know where to find it. Worth a visit if you want to learn more about New Orleans culture, which I find pretty fascinating.

  3. Lindsay this museum would be totally up your alley then. It’s a smaller museum, but there’s a lot to see there. I wish I would have had more time, but then again that’s what a third visit to New Orleans is for.

  4. Off-the-beaten track. My kind of find. Looks fascinating. If I’m ever in New Orleans, I’m looking up Mr. Sylvester and his Backstreet Cultural Museum. Thanks.

  5. It is a really great museum, and definitely off-the-beaten track. You should definitely check it out if you’re ever in NOLA.

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