The Classical Institute of the SouthThe Classical Institute of the South (CIS) at The Historic New Orleans Collection is dedicated to gathering and sharing information about the history of the Gulf South’s rich material culture. CIS field survey work catalogs historic objects with provenance in Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama dating from the eighteenth century to 1865. These objects shed light on daily life in the past as well as the region’s enormous economic expansion in the early nineteenth century. Gulf South residents were far from isolated, using the Mississippi River to trade with northern cities and even Europe.  

CIS was founded in 2011 by New Orleans attorney Paul Haygood. The Historic New Orleans Collection incorporated the Classical Institute of the South into its mission in 2016, establishing the Paul M. Haygood Fund to honor the memory of CIS’s founder and to enable future field survey work. 

ClS’s Gulf South Decorative & Fine Arts Database is hosted by the Louisiana Digital Library and is managed by THNOC staff. This free public resource offers images and descriptions of thousands of historic decorative arts objects, many of them in private collections, documented by CIS teams. The goal of the database is to encourage further appreciation and exploration of the Gulf South’s significance to decorative arts and material culture history.

Since the inaugural field survey in 2011, CIS teams have recorded thousands of important pre–Civil War objects in dozens of residences, churches, and museums. Past field surveys have included sites in New Orleans and St. Francisville, Louisiana; Natchez, Port Gibson, Woodville, and Columbus, Mississippi; and Huntsville, Alabama. Braving summer heat and humidity, the intrepid CIS explorers have discovered rare treasures and made lasting connections with local residents who embody the best of southern hospitality.

CIS offers two annual summer fellowships for graduate students of history, material culture, and art history. For five weeks, fellows travel around the Gulf South with the CIS coordinator/research curator, documenting historic decorative arts. Fellows receive a $2000 stipend, housing and transportation during the field survey, and reimbursement for travel expenses to New Orleans. THNOC also provides a scholarship to its New Orleans Antiques Forum, which concludes the annual survey activities. Fellowships for 2017 have been awarded.

With questions about CIS or to suggest a potential CIS field survey site, contact CIS coordinator and research curator Sarah Duggan.

CIS has received coverage in national and regional media such as The Magazine Antiques, The New York Times, AL.com, The Baton Rouge Advocate, The Columbus Dispatch, The Natchez Democrat, and The Historic New Orleans Collection Quarterly. Former CIS fellows have presented research inspired by their Gulf South field work at the Natchez Antiques Forum, the Newport Symposium, and the Decorative Arts Trust Forum.

CIS is assisted by an Advisory Board that includes colleagues at the Decorative Arts Trust, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, the Decorative Arts Trust, and the Winterthur Program in American Culture. Matthew A. Thurlow, Executive Director of the Decorative Arts Trust, serves as Advisory Board Chairman.


Classical Institute of the South Summer Graduate Fellowships

The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) seeks two graduate fellows for its Classical Institute of the South (CIS) summer field survey of Gulf South material culture. Founded in 1966, THNOC is a museum, research center, and publisher in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. CIS began as an independent project studying and promoting decorative arts of the region in 2011, and has been part of THNOC since 2016.

CIS Fellows expand the publicly accessible Gulf South Decorative and Fine Arts Database by cataloging historic objects with provenance in Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama dating from the eighteenth century to 1865. The 2018 summer field survey plans to continue previous documentation work in Natchez, MS and begin new projects in Demopolis, AL. Survey objects are typically in private collections, often in situ in historic homes. The field team documents a wide range of decorative arts; including furniture, ceramics, textiles, paintings, and silver. Visit classicalinstituteofthesouth.org to learn more about CIS and its work.

Schedule: Fellowships take place June 28–August 5, 2018. After several days of orientation at THNOC, fellows will travel to survey sites with the CIS Coordinator/Research Curator. Fieldwork usually takes place 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday, although some weekend or evening work may be necessary depending on site availability. Applicants must be able to travel and work in the field for extended periods of time, and be flexible and responsive to evolving work conditions and climates.

Benefits: $2,000 stipend paid upon completion of fellowship; plus housing, on-site transportation, and reimbursement for travel expenses to and from New Orleans. Fellows also receive a scholarship to THNOC’s New Orleans Antiques Forum, which concludes field survey activities.

Qualifications: Fellowships are open to current students and recent alumni of graduate programs relating to the study of American decorative arts, art history, or material culture. Applicants should have:

  • knowledge of pre-1860 American decorative arts and best practices of artifact care and handling.
  • enthusiasm for exploring new historic sites and discussing local history with the public.
  • exceptional communication and interpersonal skills.
  • ability to collaborate with teammates as well as work well independently.
  • ability to develop relationships and to provide excellent customer service to donors, owners, collectors, the public and representatives from other cultural organizations. 
  • exceptional attention to detail and ability to meet deadlines.
  • proficiency in Microsoft Office.
  • valid driver’s license preferred.

Application deadline is February 22, 2018

To apply: Submit a current CV, contact information for two references, and a cover letter explaining your interest in CIS efforts and how prior experience has prepared you for field work. Send applications to jobs@hnoc.org.