On Saturday, April 6, The Historic New Orleans Collection will throw open the doors to a $38 million expansion of its museum facilities, offering a significant addition to the French Quarter’s cultural attractions. Located at 520 Royal Street, and made possible in part through generous donations from the institution’s local, national, and international supporters, the new campus will add more than 35,000 square feet to THNOC’s footprint and double its publicly available spaces. A free public block party scheduled for Sunday, April 7, has been postponed to Saturday, May 18.  

THNOC's museum expansion includes a meticulous restoration of the historic Seignouret-Brulatour Building, shown here. (Photo by Keely Merritt)

Across the street from THNOC’s original location at 533 Royal Street, the new exhibition center comprises a meticulous restoration of the historic Seignouret-Brulatour Building and courtyard, as well as a brand new, purpose-built rear building. This unique melding of old and new spaces is unlike anything else in the French Quarter.

“This project has been in the works for almost 15 years,” said Priscilla Lawrence, THNOC president and chief executive officer. “Our board and our staff were determined to bring the historic building—its famous courtyard and layered history—back for locals and visitors alike to enjoy.”

The Seignouret-Brulatour Courtyard meets the new, purpose-built Tricentennial Wing at THNOC's new exhibition center. The unique melding of old and new spaces is unlike anything else in the French Quarter.

The site will house a continuing exhibition on the history of the French Quarter (the only such installation of its kind in the historic district), changing exhibitions, dynamic interactive displays by new media artist Xiao Xiao and local film company Côte Blanche Productions, a hands-on educational space for all ages, a fully restored Aeolian pipe organ, a larger footprint for THNOC’s museum shop, and Café Cour, a museum café run by Dana and Christina Honn of Carmo. Following THNOC’s other locations, admission to the new center will be free.

A continuing exhibition on the history of the French Quarter will offer a thematic exploration of the city's oldest neighborhood. 

“This expansion is part of our decades-long effort to be the greatest possible local history museum,” said THNOC Deputy Director Daniel Hammer. “We want New Orleanians to know us as a critical place for engagement about who they are and where they come from; no matter where they live, their story is part of The Historic New Orleans Collection.”

The first major changing exhibition at the site will also be THNOC’s first large-scale exhibition of contemporary art. Art of the City: Postmodern to Post-Katrina, presented by The Helis Foundation, will feature more than 75 painters, sculptors, and more whose works reveal the influence New Orleans has on artists.

Burning Orchid Nightclub by Douglas Bourgeois will be among the contemporary art pieces featured in Art of the City: Postmodern to Post Katrina, presented by The Helis Foundation. (THNOC, gift of Dr. Jerah Johnson, 2012.0299)

“With the expansion we hope to change, or add to, how people think of the French Quarter,” said Hammer. “We want to expand people’s appreciation for the dynamism of the French Quarter as a historic resource, as the place where their ancestors arrived, lived, worked, visited, suffered, thrived, and more. This 78-square-block grid can offer context for nearly everyone’s historic identity, whether they were born here or moved here two days ago.”

“We hope it becomes a cultural touchstone and a source of pride for everyone, because it reflects how deeply we value our history, all of it.”

Virtual reality viewfinders around the Seignouret-Brulatour Courtyard by new media artists Xiao Xiao and Alan Kwan will immerse visitors into scenes from four different time periods in the space, like the Arts and Crafts Club of New Orleans during the 1920s, shown here. The viewfinders are one of many interactive technological compnents of the new facility. (Courtesy of Xiao Xiao)

The Historic New Orleans Collection’s new exhibition center will open to the public Saturday, April 6, 2019. Grand opening festivities will continue Sunday, April 7, with a block party in the 500 block of Royal Street from 1 to 5 p.m. The afternoon event will feature free performances from Bon Bon Vivant, the Confetti Park Players, Detroit Brooks and more, and food and drink will be available for purchase throughout the block. Both of THNOC’s Royal Street facilities will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. that day, and admission to each site is free.

The Education Galleries at the new exhibition center will offer THNOC's first spaces dedicated to family exploration. 

The block party is presented by THNOC with major support from Chase and J.P. Morgan. Additional support has been provided by Waggonner and Ball Architecture/Environment and Gambel Communications.

The new exhibition center’s regular hours will be 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Tuesday–Saturday, and 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. on Sunday. More information is available online at www.hnoc.org.

Cover image: A rendering of the Seignouret-Brulatour Courtyard and Tricentennial Wing shows visitors in the spaces. (Courtesy of Waggonner and Ball Architecture/Environment)