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


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

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.

February 14, 2020
By Lydia Blackmore, decorative arts curator

Mardi Gras as we know it began in New Orleans in the second half of the 19th century, and the mythology that krewes chose for their parade themes reflects larger stylistic and sociopolitical currents of the time.

August 2, 2019
By Lydia Blackmore, decorative arts curator

Calvin Dayes made shoes fit for a king, but more importantly, he made shoes fit for those who most needed them. Regardless of the reason or the occasion for his specialty shoes, each finished piece featured a truly unique label: “By the JiveAss Shoemaker.”

February 22, 2019
By Kurt Owens, interpretation assistant

A brief history of carnival throws shows the progression of Carnival-related projectiles over the last 150 years.