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 President

photo of Priscilla Lawrence

Vacation season is upon us, and New Orleanians are busy planning their escapes from the heat, but here at The Collection we’ve already been to the other side of the world and back. In late April the annual THNOC study tour took a group of 31 members and staffers to France, in honor of the city’s founding 300 years ago. Travelers visited Paris, Orléans, and surrounding areas, exploring chateaux, museums, the Opéra Comique, and plenty of renowned restaurants along the way. If you want to take your love of history on the road with us, visit www.hnoc.org/programs/study-tours to learn about our study tours. 

The Collection hosted another tour much closer to home in April, one we’ll revive in the fall—the Portage Bike Roll 2018, which was developed as a tricentennial event in conjunction with our yearlong programming for Art of the City: Postmodern to Post-Katrina. Following the original portage route connecting the Mississippi River to Bayou St. John—and, by extension, to Lake Pontchartrain and the Gulf of Mexico—the bike tours were a great opportunity for us to get out of our French Quarter home base and onto the streets. Visitors can still take the tour on their own, using the portage-route map available for free at 533 Royal Street, as part of our Art of the City preview show. 

 As our event calendar shows, there’s never a shortage of things to do here at The Collection, and I’m excited to announce that it’s now easier than ever to register for our lectures, film screenings, concerts, and other special events. Our website’s new “My HNOC” feature will allow you to book tours, make reservations for events, or renew your membership online, anytime. Here’s how to access your account: 

  1. Click on “My HNOC,” then click “Login.”
  2. If you have previously shared an email address with us, then an account has already been set up for you. Click “Reset Password” and follow the instructions to access your account.
  3. If you have no previously shared an email address, click the “Register” button, and you will be led through the process of creating an account. Once your account is set up you can register for events, purchase or renew a membership, or change your address on file. You may also continue to register for events by calling (504 598-7146. No reservations will be taken via email, mail, or fax.  —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

Drew Jardine, Chair

John Kallenborn, Vice Chair

E. Alexandra Stafford

Hilton S. Bell

Bonnie Boyd

Lisa H. Wilson

G. Charles Lapeyre

John E. Walker, Emeritus