NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - With museums around the country shut down, curators are pushing more of their content online creating virtual exhibitions.
That’s especially true in New Orleans.
It no longer requires a trip to the French Quarter to enjoy the vast holdings of the historic New Orleans Collection.
For the past month, “business as usual” has become “no business at all”. With stores, offices and restaurants and even streetcars shutdown, museums like New Orleans Collection are also dark. But with the click of a mouse, those exhibits and a few centuries of history come alive.
“We’ve been working as hard as we can to get to make all of the online content that we have available. The virtual exhibitions that we have more available to the public,” says Amanda McFillen, Programming Manager at New Orleans Collective. “We even created a whole new webpage on our website called History From Home, which has links to our virtual exhibitions.”
One of those exhibitions features the Boswell Sisters, a singing trio from New Orleans who became a national sensation.
“Early in their career, kind of launched the national stage and were on the radio in the 20s and 30s with performers like Bing Crosby. They collaborated with him pretty frequently. They toured throughout Europe.”
What surprised you most about as you started learning about this singing trio of sisters from New Orleans?
“I think one thing was that they had such a short career. They performed together, starting when they were young and they performed around New Orleans. But their national career went on for about seven years or so. Then two of the sisters married and kind of settled down. But then, Connie Boswell went on, she was one of the sisters, she went on to have a career that spanned decades.”
Another online exhibit digs into one of the darkest, cruelest chapters of our history.
“At one point, New Orleans had the largest slave market in the United States which many people did not realize.”
There are images of slave auctions, actual bills of sale of human beings and links to narratives of former slaves written in the 1930s.
“In 1807, it became illegal to import, insulate people from outside the United States. But we know that people were still being bought and sold within the United States. People were being shipped down from up North down South to New Orleans being sold to other parts of the South from here. And so it’s looking at the impact that this had on people’s lives.”
Another online collection takes you to a deadly viral epidemic that killed more than 3000 people in New Orleans a century ago. Where social distancing was also encouraged, but not always practiced.
“If you’re trying to put together a puzzle was only half the pieces, you’re never going to see the full picture. And I think the same with history that we should look at the good and the bad sides of history and be willing to really study them and take lessons from them.”
Even at a time of extreme social distancing, the lessons of history may now be closer than ever.
You can get to all of this information through the historic collection’s website HNOC.org.