The Classical Institute of the SouthThe Classical Institute of the South (CIS) at The Historic New Orleans Collection is a research project that gathers and shares information about the Gulf South’s rich material culture. To do this, the project catalogs historic objects made or used in Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama dating from the eighteenth century to 1865. 

ClS’s work is accessible in the Decorative Arts of the Gulf South database. This free online resource is hosted by the Louisiana Digital Library and managed by THNOC staff. Anyone can browse images and descriptions of thousands of historic decorative arts objects, many of them in private collections, documented by CIS field work teams.

Database entries include furniture, ceramics, textiles, paintings, and silver, plus a wide array of more unusual and everyday pieces. 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 and Gulf of Mexico to trade with cities throughout the United States and across the Atlantic Ocean.

With questions about CIS or to suggest a potential CIS field survey site, contact CIS coordinator and research curator Sarah Duggan at (504) 556-7668 or

Summer Fellowships

CIS Fellows at work in the field. 

CIS offers two annual summer fellowships for graduate students or emerging professionals in history, material culture, and art history. For most of July, fellows travel around the Gulf South documenting historic decorative arts with the CIS coordinator/research curator. Survey objects are typically in private collections, often in situ in historic homes.

Fellows receive:

  • $2,000 stipend
  • Scholarship to the New Orleans Antiques Forum, which concludes the fellowship
  • Housing and transportation during the fellowship, plus reimbursement for travel expenses to and from New Orleans
  • Orientation lectures and museum field trips providing background information about Gulf South history and material culture
  • Training in object photography and data entry procedures
  • Hands-on study opportunities with a wide range of decorative arts objects
  • Resume-building hands-on experience that makes an essential contribution to an ongoing museum research project

After several days of orientation at THNOC, fellows travel to fieldwork sites with the CIS coordinator/research curator.

Fieldwork usually takes place 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 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.


Frequently Asked Questions

Sample Fellowship Schedule

2020 Fellowship Applications

This year’s fellowships will take place June 28 – August 2, 2020. 

Applications for 2020 fellowships are due February 15, 2020. Fellowship recipients will be notified in early March.

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 fieldwork. Send applications to

Apply Now

About CIS

CIS fellows and alumni at the 2017 New Orleans Antiques Forum

The Classical Institute of the South was founded in 2011 by New Orleans attorney Paul Haygood. The Historic New Orleans Collection incorporated the research initiative 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. 

Since 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 Camden, Demopolis, 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.

The CIS Summer fellowship is a proven resume-building opportunity for students and young professionals entering the decorative arts field. Past participants have secured jobs as curators, appraisers, and independent contractors at many esteemed institutions, including Mount Vernon, Colonial Williamsburg, Yale University Art Gallery, the New York Yacht Club, the Museum of the American Revolution, Wipiak Consulting, and The Historic New Orleans Collection. CIS fellowship alumni have also presented research inspired by their field work at the Natchez Antiques Forum, the Newport Symposium, and the Decorative Arts Trust Forum.

The project has received coverage in national and regional media such as The Magazine AntiquesThe New York TimesAL.comThe Baton Rouge AdvocateThe Columbus DispatchThe Natchez Democrat, and The Historic New Orleans Collection Quarterly

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