Hardy: Carnival history has special home at Tulane University

Arthur Hardy: Carnival Archives at Tulane

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Once many carnival parades are over, the pageantry becomes just a memory. That’s why tucked away inside several rooms at Tulane University are boxes and shelves filled with carnival treasures. Lee Miller runs the Louisiana Research Collection and inside carnival enthusiasts can find the largest Pre-World War Two carnival archives in the world.

“Archives specialize in deliberately recorded information, primarily things on paper. We have a large collection of original costume and float designs. We have a large carnival ephemera and what I mean by ephemera is small printed materials, invitations, dance cards and call out cards," said Miller.

The carnival collection boast tens of thousands of treasured pieces, many of which, are considered priceless. Some of the most treasured pieces of the collection come from the 1892 Proteus parade. “This is sort of a butterfly figure. The design is full of color, full of life,” added Miller. Miller said many of the designs back them were designed for real everyday people, with real body shapes. Most of the costume designs from that time who have had tiny holes punch in them. The holes were made when the costumiers in Paris would have pinned them to a work while doing their work.

Another special piece of the collection is a tiny card, that led to Mardi Gras being brought to New Orleans. “This is the invitation to the meeting to form Comus, January 4, 1857. It’s a very small little thing. It’s charming. It’s where carnival in New Orleans started,” said Miller.

Miller said he is sad to think about the carnival archives that were lost in Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “After Katrina I had so many people come up to me and say Lee, I was saving things that I always intended to give to you. I thought I had them in a safe place. They were just wiped out by Katrina,” added Miller.

The Louisiana Research Collection opens its carnival archives to anyone who wants to look at them and many of their archives are listed on their website.

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