The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South.

Founded in 1966, THNOC has grown to include 10 historic buildings making up two French Quarter campuses. The Royal Street campus, located at 533 Royal Street, serves as our museum headquarters, housing our main space for rotating exhibitions, the Williams Gallery; our permanent installation, the Louisiana History Galleries; and our house museum, the Williams Residence. The Chartres Street campus, located at 400 and 410 Chartres Street, comprises the Williams Research Center, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art, and our on-site vault for collections items.

Researchers—whether dedicated scholars or casual history buffs—can access THNOC’s materials through the Williams Research Center. THNOC’s holdings comprise 1,000,000 items that document everyday life as well as momentous historical events spanning more than three centuries. The Collection includes 35,000 library items, shelves of documents and manuscripts that extend more than two miles, as well as 350,000 photographs, prints, drawings, paintings, and other artifacts.

The museum’s four exhibition spaces are free of charge and present multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the development of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art. Through docent-led or cell-phone tours, visitors can learn about the architectural styles of the city’s oldest neighborhood, the Vieux Carré, and enter the private residence of THNOC’s founders, General L. Kemper and Leila Williams.  

As a publisher, THNOC produces award-winning original books exploring the history, art, music, culture, and decorative arts of the region. Our magazine, the Historic New Orleans Collection Quarterly, surveys the region's history as it relates to THNOC's projects and programs.

 

From the Director

photo of Priscilla Lawrence

We are honored and excited to highlight our acquisition of the important collection of Fritz Daguillard and his wife, Rita Daguillard. Director of Museum Programs John H. Lawrence and I first met the Daguillards in 2005, when The Historic New Orleans Collection was preparing for the 2006 exhibition Common Routes: St. Domingue • Louisiana. A prominent immunologist and native of Haiti, Fritz Daguillard had been collecting visual materials related to the Haitian Revolution and the experiences of Africans and African Americans in the New World for many years. He graciously lent 24 objects for inclusion in Common Routes, and since that significant exhibition, the Daguillards have been actively interested in THNOC and its many programs. We are privileged to welcome their generous donation and look forward to sharing it with researchers and the general public in future exhibitions. A preview of the collection can be found on pages 15–17.

At the same time we were enthusiastically greeting this new arrival, we were reluctantly saying goodbye to friend and colleague Goldie Lanaux, who retired in March. Goldie was an integral member of our registration department, becoming head registrar in 2012. We already miss her dedication, attention to detail, and her laugh!

In the spring we hosted another action-packed study tour. This year’s destination, the Netherlands, provided a host of compelling museums, fascinating historical sites, beautiful gardens, and delicious meals. In the summer we completed our renovation of the building at the corner of Toulouse and Chartres Street and were pleased to move our publications, marketing, education, and security departments to this fresh space. Read about the building’s past and future on pages 2–3. As we enter the fall, we continue to work diligently on all we have planned for the tricentennial year. Look for a full overview of our 2018 initiatives in the winter Quarterly.

—Priscilla Lawrence

 

General L. Kemper and Leila Williams

detail of Liela Morre Williams portraitdetail of Kemper Williams portraitPortrait sketches of Leila Hardie Moore Williams and General L. Kemper Williams (detail); 1938; pencil; by Clarence Mattei; 75.135.1-.2 WR

Lewis Kemper Williams (1887–1971) was born in Patterson, Louisiana, in 1887. As a young man, he entered the family lumber business, becoming secretary-treasurer and, later, president of the F. B. Williams Cypress Company. From 1949 until his retirement in 1971, he served as president, director, and then chairman of the board of Williams Inc., a company with broad interests in land, mineral royalties, and investments. Williams served in the US army in World Wars I and II, rising to the rank of brigadier general.

In 1920 shortly after his tour of duty in World War I, Williams married New Orleans native Leila Hardie Moore (1901–1966) in New London, Connecticut. During their life together, the Williamses demonstrated a keen sense of civic and philanthropic responsibility. Beneficiaries of their generosity included the University of the South, Boy Scouts of America, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Anna’s Asylum, the Junior League, and the New Orleans Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. In 1937 Kemper Williams received one of the city’s highest honors: for his leadership of the New Orleans Housing Authority, he was awarded the Times-Picayune Loving Cup.

In 1938 the Williamses bought two properties in the French Quarter—the Merieult House on Royal Street and a late 19th-century residence contiguous to the Merieult House, facing Toulouse Street. The latter property was their home for 17 years, during which time they amassed a substantial collection of important Louisiana artifacts—the founding holdings of The Historic New Orleans Collection. 

 

Kemper and Leila Williams Foundation

With the goal of making their collected materials available to the public for future generations, the couple established The Historic New Orleans Collection. With their deaths—hers in 1966 and his in 1971—the Kemper and Leila Williams Foundation was established to ensure stable, long-term financial support for The Collection. A seven-member board of directors oversees the institution’s operation, providing guidance and insight.

Board of Directors

Mrs. William K. Christovich, Chair

Drew Jardine, President

John Kallenborn, Vice President

E. Alexandra Stafford

Hilton S. Bell

Bonnie Boyd

Lisa H. Wilson

John E. Walker, Emeritus

Fred M. Smith, Emeritus and Immediate Past President