Purchased Lives exhibition to travel

The Historic New Orleans Collection is proud to announce that it has received three grants totaling more than $340,000 to support its recent exhibition on the domestic slave trade traveling in different formats to host sites around the country.

The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded THNOC a Museums, Libraries, and Cultural Organizations Implementation Grant of $282,190, one of the larger grants awarded this cycle and the largest received by a Louisiana institution. The majority of the funds will allow the display of original artifacts, titled Purchased Lives: The American Slave Trade from 1808 to 1865, to travel to three museums in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas. Purchased Lives was originally on view at The Historic New Orleans Collection, where it broke attendance records, from March 17–July 18, 2015.

Beginning this summer, the exhibition of original artifacts will visit the Alexandria Museum of Art in Alexandria, Louisiana (June 3–August 20, 2016) before traveling to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis (September 12–November 27, 2016) and the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin (opening February 2017). The grant will also support teacher workshops and a full slate of programming at each host site.

In addition, THNOC and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities will bring a portable, panel version of Purchased Lives to 10 sites in Louisiana. The initiative is presented by Entergy Corporation with additional support from the National Park Service, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Kabacoff Family Foundation. Based on content in the exhibition of original artifacts, the vibrant and informative panels will feature reproductions of the artifacts, along with text detailing the many facets and effects of the domestic slave trade.

The display will visit libraries, parks and community centers in the following Louisiana markets over the course of 16 months. Each site will host the display for approximately six weeks.

  • Natchitoches: Cane River Creole National Historical Park, November 1–December 13, 2016
  • Bunkie: City Hall, January 2–February 13, 2017
  • Port Allen: West Baton Rouge Museum, February 17–March 31, 2017
  • Jonesboro: Jackson Parish Library, April 14–May 26, 2017
  • Bossier City: Bossier Parish Library, June 1–July 13, 2017
  • New Iberia: Bayou Teche Museum, July 17–Aug. 28, 2017
  • Thibodaux: Ellender Memorial Library at Nicholls State University, September 1–October 13, 2017
  • New Roads: Pointe Coupee Parish Library, Main Branch, October 17–November 28, 2017
  • Slidell: St. Tammany Parish Library, Slidell Branch, December 1, 2017–January 12, 2018
  • Lake Charles: Calcasieu Parish Library, Central Branch, January 16–February 27, 2018


Curated by THNOC Historian Erin M. Greenwald, Purchased Lives examines the period between America’s 1808 abolition of the international slave trade and the end of the Civil War, during which an estimated two million people were forcibly moved within the confines of the United States. The domestic trade wreaked new havoc on the lives of enslaved families, as owners and traders in the Upper South—Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington, DC—sold and shipped surplus laborers to the developing Lower South—Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Many of those individuals passed through New Orleans, which was the largest slave market in antebellum America.

The exhibition’s narrative is not limited to New Orleans, however. It examines a complex and divisive period of American history, helping viewers learn about the far-reaching economic and heartbreaking personal impact of the domestic slave trade.

During its 2015 run at THNOC’s Williams Research Center, Purchased Lives deeply impacted visitors, many of whom returned for two, three, four or more visits. In total, more than 15,000 people visited the display, with the final day seeing 667 people. By comparison, that same space saw 14,000 people during all of 2014.


The traveling exhibition of original objects has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

The panel exhibition is by The Historic New Orleans Collection in collaboration with the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. It is presented by Entergy Corporation with additional support from the National Park Service, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Kabacoff Family Foundation.



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