Making Mardi Gras
Sponsored by Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World and Kern Studios
January 6–May 8, 2022
Extended version: May 27–August 7, 2022

Tuesday–Saturday, 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.; Sunday, 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
520 Royal Street, Tricentennial Wing, 3rd Floor
Free ticketed admission

GET TICKETS

About the Exhibition

You can feel it coming. A marching band cadence echoes from a mile away. Pounding drums and bright feathers flare from the Mardi Gras Indians just up the block. Months of painstaking glittering, marching, beadwork, and brushstrokes have led up to this moment, and you are ready to burst into the street. It’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

On January 6, 2022, The Historic New Orleans Collection’s Making Mardi Gras exhibition rambles its way into the museum's French Quarter galleries. This showstopping display invites visitors into the sprawling dens, late-night sewing sessions, and sweaty dance rehearsals where “The Greatest Free Show on Earth” is created and re-created each year among the city’s diverse communities. Explore the vibrant expression that only Carnival season can muster, as we meet up with 19th-century float artists, dawn-breaking skeleton gangs, and homebound house-float creators—stopping to admire costumes, royalty, and hand-painted coconuts.

This is the Mardi Gras that happens before we're watching, the Carnival that will wind through the city on Fat Tuesday, far from the intemperate Bourbon Street scene. Catch it before it passes.

This exhibition is generously sponsored by Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World and Kern Studios.

 


Curated Playlist

Get into the Mardi Gras spirit by listening to the playlist below, put together for this exhibition by DJ Soul Sister—founder and host of WWOZ’s Soul Power.

 


 

Object Spotlight

Take a deep dive into the history and traditions of the North Side Skull and Bone Gang, which has signaled the start of Mardi Gras Day for two centuries.

In the videos below, Big Chief Bruce Sunpie Barnes, who created the skeleton suit for this exhibition, describes his creative process for designing and making the suit, traces the origins of the gang, and reflects on the demographic changes in the gang’s neighborhood, Tremé.

Historic films, old and new photographs, and live footage of the North Side Skull and Bone Gang coming out on Mardi Gras Day 2022 bring the rich narrative of this distinctive group to life.

 


 

Related Programming

Related Stories

Pages

July 7, 2022
By Katherine Jolliff Dunn, curatorial cataloger

THNOC houses hundreds of designs from the archives of Larry Youngblood and Carroll Pio Burtanog, two designers who outfitted Carnival kings, queens, and courtiers for decades. Here’s a look at some of their most outrageous creations. 




June 30, 2022
By THNOC staff

Bruce Sunpie Barnes, Big Chief of the North Side Skull and Bone Gang, describes a Mardi Gras Black masking tradition.




February 18, 2022
Jari Honora, reference associate

Since the 1890s, Black Carnival clubs have presented debutantes at their elegant annual balls.




February 16, 2022
By THNOC Visitor Services

How does a krewe work? What does the king do? And what about all those beads? THNOC’s Visitor Services staff have the answers.




February 9, 2022
By Mallory Taylor, associate curator

The photography of Making Mardi Gras shows snapshots of Carnival through time, from Big Chiefs to ‘tit Rex.




January 27, 2022
By DJ Soul Sister, New Orleans

In these liner notes to a playlist curated for THNOC, DJ Soul Sister, the “queen of rare groove,” leads a tour of Mardi Gras through music history and her memories as a native New Orleanian.




January 5, 2022
By Molly Reid Cleaver, editor

Before Sharpe’s invention helped birth the entire signature-throw industry, he sailed around the world, sold paintings, wrote poetry, and studied ancient history.




December 10, 2021
By Lydia Blackmore, decorative arts curator

Forget public indecency. A 1960s pamphlet shares some timeless advice for catching throws—and we provide some updates for the 21st century.




February 9, 2021
By Melissa Carrier, Eli A. Haddow, and Keely Merritt

COVID-19 may have canceled parades for 2021, but it couldn't erase Mardi Gras entirely. Creativity flourished around the Crescent City in the form of a new tradition: house floats.




November 17, 2020
By Katherine Jolliff Dunn and Emily Perkins

As New Orleans braces for a vastly downsized Carnival 2021 because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, THNOC is looking back at each cancellation, focusing on what the city was like at that time, the activities of the krewes during the downtime, and the celebrations that did take place despite the shutdown of big parades.




Pages