Tennessee Williams palaque 722 Toulouse St.  New OrleansThe Historic New Orleans Collection was involved with the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival from the festival’s very start in 1986, hosting receptions and events. Over time, THNOC has become the unofficial repository for material documenting the annual event. The archive includes correspondence of festival organizers, minutes, promotional material, videocassettes, and ephemera that in a random and often incomplete way document the history of this popular and continually blossoming tribute to Tennessee.

The accumulation of the festival material occurred over time and was largely the result of THNOC’s close association with the event. The first deliberate, substantial acquisition intended to document Williams’s work was made in 1994 with the purchase of a 99-page playscript of Vieux Carré (94-45-L) from The Brick Row Book Shop in San Francisco. The acquisition of the playscript, dated November 27, 1973, was easily justified, considering that some events in the play take place in The Collection’s 722 Toulouse Street building. Soon after this acquisition, THNOC received a donation of a small collection of lease documents from 1946–47 related to Tennessee’s apartment at 632½ St. Peter Street (95-1-L), just around the corner from The Collection.

In addition to the playscript of Vieux Carré and the lease documents, THNOC’s library held a modest collection of Williams’s published works, and its curatorial department maintained photographs of the Desire streetcar draped in black (1983.56.1–.3) and the 632½ St. Peter Street building, decorated with a wreath on the occasion of Tennessee’s death in 1983 (1995.7.205–.209), a series of 1977 photographs by Christopher R. Harris of Williams at various locations in the Vieux Carré (1994.143.1–.5), Richard Sexton’s photographs of contemporary New Orleans places having a connection to Williams’s life and work (1997.53.1–.10), and a lithograph by noted artist George Javier Febres entitled “My Name for Him was Little Horse” (1996.78.1.50).

In 2000 The Collection acquired 16 of the 44 lots being auctioned at Neal Auction Company in New Orleans. According to the auction house, the items were being sold by a rare book and manuscripts dealer from Thibodaux, Louisiana (a small town outside of New Orleans), who had acquired them from someone who had found them in the garbage outside of one of Tennessee Williams’s French Quarter apartments. A complete list of this material can be found in Neal Auction Company’s Spring Estates Auction Catalog for April 8 and 9, 2000. The lots sold to a number of different private and institutional collectors.