Postcard showing view of Storyville; New Orleans: C. B. Mason, [1904–8]; The Historic New Orleans Collection, 1979.362.16

Postcard showing view of Storyville; New Orleans: C. B. Mason, [1904–8]; The Historic New Orleans Collection, 1979.362.16


April 5, 2017 to December 9, 2017
Tuesday–Saturday, 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres Street
Admission is free.

Storyville: Madams and Music was an award-winning exhibition that revived the sights and sounds of New Orleans’s former red-light district on the 100-year anniversary of its closing. Using a diverse display of photographs, maps, postcards, contemporary objects, and the infamous blue books that served as directories to the District’s prostitutes, the exhibition encouraged a better understanding of the music, people, and businesses that shaped the complicated legacies of Storyville.

Formed by an 1897 ordinance, introduced by Alderman Sidney Story, Storyville was a legally sanctioned prostitution district located just north of the French Quarter. The varied attractions of sex, music, and dance emanating from the District’s brothels, saloons, and beer halls lured visitors from around the country, giving rise to a nationally important tourism center. Pioneering musicians like Manuel “Fess” Manetta, Jelly Roll Morton, and Joe “King” Oliver experimented with new styles and techniques there, and in the same year the District closed—1917— the Original Dixieland Jazz Band released the first jazz record, “Livery Stable Blues.”

Storyville: Madams and Music guided visitors through the rise and fall of the neighborhood, that helped shape the notorious reputation that adheres to New Orleans today. The exhibition's opening complemented THNOC’s book, Guidebooks to Sin: The Blue Books of Storyville, New Orleans, the first thorough contemporary study of these rare guides, which was released in February 2017.

Visit the virtual exhibition!


"Exhibition of the Year" • Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities


Media Coverage

Beyond Bourbon Street podcast: The Madams, Music, and Musicians of Storyville, New Orleans

Hyperallergic: The Lost Sights and Sounds of Storyville, New Orleans’s Red Light District

Dave McNamara's Heart of Louisiana: Historic New Orleans Collection explores Storyville

Country Roads magazine: Good Times with Bad Girls: Blue books provide telling insights into the lives of those who worked and played in New Orleans’ Storyville