Eight months since Hurricane Ida, Backstreet Cultural Museum still without a home

Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 3:49 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 25, 2022 at 5:54 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - One of the scars of Hurricane Ida can be seen on Henriette Delille St. in Tremé, at the former site of the Backstreet Cultural Museum.

The museum’s executive director, Dominique Dilling-Francis, says that the storm toppled a tree onto the roof, causing leaks into the building. Most of the artifacts honoring Mardi Gras Indians, walking krewes, and social aid and pleasure clubs luckily survived.

“We had to immediately remove everything from the location and we have about four large storages,” Dilling-Francis said.

The museum called the building home since 1999 when Dilling-Francis’ father, photographer Sylvester Francis, opened the doors. But the damages from the hurricane were too much so she decided she had to find a new building, especially since there was a demand for her museum.

“I get called daily. People want to see this. They want to see it continued. They want to book tours,” Dilling-Francis said.

In an effort to keep the museum in Tremé, Dilling-Francis has been trying to find any available building for rent, lease, or sale. However, she found some relief when the New Orleans African American Museum offered one of its unused buildings.

The goal was to open up on Mardi Gras Day 2022 but Dilling-Francis says she faced roadblocks when trying to get city approval for needed construction projects.

“There are some issues with zoning. I know we are going to need some electrical permits. I know we need an ADA ramp,” she said. “We’re trying to get this location open. We are already two deadlines behind. We don’t have an expecting opening date yet because we are waiting on city permits.”

Despite the challenges, the hope is that the city will again reconsider permits within the next six months for the new space. Dilling-Francis also says she sees the building at the New Orleans African American Museum as temporary and hopes she raises enough donations and grant money to find a bigger, permanent building.

“I really truly believe that we are essential to the community,” she said. “The amount of love that’s been poured out toward Backstreet, I know we have to remain and keep the doors open.”

In the meantime, Dilling-Francis wants to focus on setting up pop-up displays with some of its artifacts the next one will be the museum’s 33rd annual display at Jazz Fest on April 29.

“This will be my first year hosting everything without my dad being here,” she said. “We will have some new cool things. I want people to come out and enjoy that.”

The Backstreet Cultural Museum is also taking donations on their website for anyone who wants to help museum leaders find a new home.

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