Backstreet Cultural Museum
Located in the historic Faubourg Treme neighborhood, the Backstreet Cultural Museum preserves and perpetuates New Orleans’ African American parading traditions through collections, exhibitions, publications, public programs, and performances. These cultural traditions include Mardi Gras Indians, Skull and Bone gangs, Baby Dolls, jazz funerals, social aid and pleasure clubs, and other related rituals.
Founded in 1999, the Backstreet Cultural Museum features a permanent collection of Mardi Gras Indian suits, parade costumes, photographs, and artifacts. The museum holds the largest collection of Mardi Gras Indian suits, which are gaining recognition for their aesthetic importance and artistic power. The museum is also the repository of a remarkable film collection created by the organization’s founder, Sylvester Francis, which is the world’s most comprehensive filmed record of New Orleans’ jazz funerals and second line parades.
Housed in an altered residence and former funeral home dating to the 1930s, the Museum requires significant renovation and modernization to support its growing collection and to alleviate the general disrepair of its facilities. The proposed modifications realign the museum entry sequence, expand and update its main gallery add accessible restrooms, and provide environmental improvements such as a central mechanical system, weatherization, and building insulation.
To assist a growing local need, the proposal also includes a community space. The currently unused rear section of the building will be replaced with a new structure containing a large room and required support facilities. Conceived as a blank container, the community space will be used for banquets, meetings, and gallery exhibits, as well as screenings of Mr. Francis’ films. With the construction of this facility, general improvements will be made to the exterior of the entire building and a new courtyard entrance will connect the street to the community space.