The purpose of our oral history work is to record, collect, and preserve the memories of those who have shaped the development of New Orleans institutions and neighborhoods, or those who have witnessed historic events that have taken place in our region.

These oral histories are collected through long-form interviews, which are often carried out in multiple sessions over the course of several weeks as part of the New Orleans Life Story project. Shorter interviews are used for projects created as documentary responses to important crises, such as Hurricane Katrina or the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; or to document the history of New Orleans institutions, as we did in our Sugar Bowl Memory project; or historic neighborhoods, as we did in Vieux Carré Memoir project.

For more information regarding this work please contact Mark Cave senior curator and oral historian at 504-598-7132

Drawing from THNOC's oral histories, New Orleans's National Public Radio affiliate WWNO produces a series of short features for the radio called NOLA Life Stories.


NOLA Resistance

The modern African American civil rights movement brought about immense cultural change in New Orleans. The fight for racial justice included voter registration drives as well as efforts to curtail discrimination in schools, on public transportation, and in businesses. Local chapters of CORE, the NAACP, and NAACP youth council led the movement. This oral history project, funded in part by a National Park Service grant, records testimony from individuals who were active in the fight for racial equality in New Orleans between 1954 and 1976.


Vieux Carré Memoir

The Vieux Carré has been the center of the cultural and social life of New Orleans since the city’s inception. Generations of artists, writers, restaurateurs, bartenders, bankers, exotic dancers, Catholic priests, fortunetellers, tourists and others have haunted these 78 squares of brick and mortar for nearly three centuries. Vieux Carré Memoir was created to archive the voices of those who have influenced life in the French Quarter during our time. It is intended to give researchers an understanding of the changing nature of the Vieux Carré during the second half of the twentieth century.


New Orleans Life Story Project

This oral history collection consists primarily of long-form interviews that seek to document a diversity of perspectives on important issues in contemporary New Orleans history.  For researchers these interviews provide insight into what “makes people tick” and helps build a more textured understanding of events. THNOC created a radio program called NOLA Life Stories with the cooperation of WWNO, the New Orleans NPR affiliate, which features excerpts from these interviews.


Katrina’s First Responders Project

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, THNOC collaborated with local, state, and federal agencies involved in the Katrina response to interview their first responders. Consisting of more than 500 interviews carried out with 15 different agencies, it is one of the most substantial historical resources on what happened in New Orleans in the weeks following the storm. For the 10th anniversary of the storm THNOC, with the cooperation of WWNO, produced The Katrina Files, a radio series featuring excerpts from these interviews.


All Things Great and Small

Images of oil-covered pelicans and sea turtles during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico spurred urgent and emotional animal rescue efforts. The Historic New Orleans Collection partnered with agencies involved in wildlife rescue operations in Louisiana to interview officials and volunteers involved in the creation and functioning of these rescue operations. The project not only documents the response, but also explores the participants’ connection to nature.


Sugar Bowl Memory Project

The Sugar Bowl was established in New Orleans in 1935, and is noted for its annual college football game. In 2007 the organization donated a large collection of photographs, programs, and ephemera to The Collection that document the history of the organization and the game. The interviews add to the archive a vital context, helping to explain what makes this annual event such an important thread in the fabric of our community.


Burt Harter Oral History Project

Made possible by a grant from the J. B. Harter Trust, this project documents the life and milieu of well-known New Orleans artist and curator John Burton Harter. In 2002 Harter was found murdered in his home in the city. The crime has never been solved. The interviews of Harter’s friends and professional colleagues provide details about the artist’s life and insights into the history of the local gay community, but they also reveal how an unresolved act of violence can affect an extended community of friends.