Material Donations

The Historic New Orleans Collection acquires material that reflects the cultural, geographical, political, sociological, and ethnological background of metropolitan New Orleans and the Gulf South.

Types of material acquired include personal papers, oral histories, photographs, books, maps, paintings, legal and financial documents, institutional records, digital archives, film and video, decorative art objects, and other artifacts.

Potential acquisitions will be considered based on the extent to which they contribute to established collecting themes, on the extent to which they help fill a gap in the documentary profile of our community, and on the distinctiveness of the material.


Acquisition Process

The acquisitions committee meets each month to discuss and recommend a slate of material for final approval by the Board of Directors. Curators work with potential donors to review the suitability of proposed additions to our holdings, and if the curator determines that the items are appropriate, the acquisitions committee will consider the items at their monthly meeting.


Collecting Themes

Our collecting strategy is regularly modified by our acquisitions committee. The committee devises subject strategies under twelve overarching collecting themes. The following is a list of these themes along with a description of our current collecting focus and contact information for curators developing that particular subject area.

Our collecting interests are not limited to what is stated.


Architecture and Urban Development

Contact: Howard Margot, 504-598-7192

Current collecting focus: We are actively collecting items related to the development of the infrastructure of the New Orleans area. We are also keenly interested in the tension between modern development and the preservation of historic structures in the city; neighborhood history, with an emphasis on the built environment, including cemeteries, parks, and churches; and items that document the planning and development of suburban New Orleans.

Items desired: Personal narratives that document neighborhood history, particularly the French Quarter; dated photographs of identified structures throughout the city; objects that document public transportation systems in New Orleans; and aerial photographs of metropolitan New Orleans.


Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture

Contact: Lydia Blackmore, 504-598-7121; Mark Cave, 504-598-7132

Current collecting focus: A particular area of interest is developing our holdings that document the oil and gas industry in our region. We are also actively collecting in areas related to banking and currency: specifically, Louisiana under the French Company of the West and the French Company of the Indies; hard currency circulation during the French and Spanish colonial periods; the Panic of 1837; activities related to antebellum banking, including materials related to commercial banks, property banks, and infrastructure banks, as well as items that speak to New Orleans’s national and transatlantic banking ties; Civil War–era banking and currency; and the collapse and rebirth of Louisiana’s banking system after 1865.

Items desired: Personal narratives of those involved in the oil and gas industry; Spanish coins minted in the Americas prior to 1803 in very good condition or better; antebellum banknotes, bills of exchange, correspondence, and banking records from the Banque de la Louisiane, Commercial Bank (New Orleans), Consolidated Association of the Planters of Louisiana, Carrollton Bank, New Orleans Savings Bank, Mechanics and Traders Bank, Atchafalaya Bank, Atchafalaya Railroad and Banking Company, City of New Orleans Third Municipality, Gas Light and Banking Company (New Orleans); Civil War–era banknotes from Assumption, Claiborne, DeSoto, Franklin, Jackson, Lafayette, Lafourche, Madison, Morehouse, Sabine, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, Vermillion, and West Feliciana Parishes; New Orleans–minted coins bearing mint mark “O” in very good condition or better, especially 1861 US Seated Liberty half dollar or 1909 Barber half dollar.


Fine and Decorative Arts

Contacts: Decorative arts: Lydia Blackmore, 504-598-7121; painting and sculpture: Judith Bonner, 504-598-7115 ; photography: Mallory Taylor, 504-556-7611

Current collecting focus: In decorative arts we are looking to collect objects with a documented association with life in the interconnected world of French and Spanish colonial Louisiana, objects made by local craftsmen, objects sold by local retailers, architectural elements, and objects relating to the varied peoples of the region, especially enslaved and free African Americans and Native Americans. In painting and sculpture we are looking for work by artists associated with the Southern Art Union, Artists’ Association of New Orleans, Arts and Crafts Club, New Orleans Art League, and Newcomb College, as well as artwork related to the preservationist movement in the French Quarter. In photography we collect images made by professionals, amateurs, and artists, with an underlying criterion that the photographs present factual information that can be interpreted in ways aiding the understanding of history. We collect images with identified human subjects, urban landscapes, and identifiable activities that may offer valuable photographic insight for studying the past. We are also keenly interested in locating and acquiring archives by African American photographers who operated in the region.

Items desired: Decorative arts: Spanish wrought iron, cast iron building ornaments, 18th-century French faience and English queensware and pearlware that match archaeological fragments, glass with a history of ownership in the region, parian porcelain statuary, and clothing made or retailed in New Orleans that is in excellent condition. Painting: works by Bror Anders Wikström, Louise Amelia Giesen Woodward, Mary Belle Johnson Woodward, Harriet Coulter “Hattie” Joor, Mary Williams Butler, Mary Given Sheerer, and Gertrude Roberts Smith. Photography: works by Jules Lion, J. D. Edwards, Theodore Lilienthal, and George F. Mugnier.


Geography and Land Tenure

Contact: Jason Wiese, 504-598-7183; Howard Margot, 504-598-7192

Current collecting focus: We are looking for manuscript and printed maps of Louisiana, New Orleans, and the Gulf South region, including—but not limited to—land surveys, continental maps, territorial and state maps, coastal and maritime charts, Mississippi River charts, topographic maps, and New Orleans city maps and plans, as well as atlases and specialty maps of our city and region that highlight specific aspects, such as population changes, economic activity, and natural resources.

Items desired: Copies of 18th- and 19th-century surveys, Notarial Archives planbook plans, and land grants owned by families; 20th-century land surveys that show important changes to New Orleans neighborhoods and landmarks; survey books by Barthélémy Lafon; manuscript river and coastal charts; early printed Gulf Coast charts with original survey data showing coastal features, as well as soundings and sea bottom characteristics; newer tourism, souvenir, and road maps highlighting new information, or marketing to different or historically underserved groups.


Historical Eras, Colonial and Territorial Louisiana

Contact: Alfred Lemmon, 504-598-7124; Howard Margot, 504-598-7192

Current collecting focus: We are interested in acquiring items that document Native American, French, Spanish, German, and African-American contributions to the development of our region during the colonial period. In particular, we are interested in documenting the large immigration efforts undertaken by Spain, namely the Acadians, Isleños, and Malgueños. We are also interested in items related to construction techniques, as well as naval, scientific, agricultural, commercial, and cultural practices. Also of interest are items that place Louisiana’s colonial experience in a global perspective and those items that reflect how Louisiana was perceived.

Items desired: A copy of the 1699 engraving illustrating La Salle claiming Louisiana for France; a print of Le Moyne’s projected ceiling for the Banque Générale; the view of the Mississippi River from New Orleans to the mouth of the river by Lassus; the Arrest du Roy (both manuscript and printed) of 1719, granting the Company of the Indies the right to establish towns in Louisiana; a copy of Recueil de décorations intérieures (1801 and 1812) by Percier and Fontaine; and an original set of playing cards manufactured by the Galvez family.


Literary Arts

Contact: Mark Cave, 504-598-7132; Nina Bozak, 504-598-7118

Current collecting focus: We are actively building collections on the following writers: Sherwood Anderson, Charles Bukowski, George Washington Cable, Kate Chopin, John William Corrington, William Faulkner, Lafcadio Hearn, William March, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Walker Percy, Lyle Saxon, Victor Séjour, John Kennedy Toole, and Tennessee Williams. The types of material that we are seeking include literary first editions, photographs, manuscripts, and correspondence. Another area of focus is New Orleans in film, particularly items documenting silent-era films shot on location in New Orleans.

Items desired: A one sheet or half sheet poster for the 1923 D. W. Griffith film The White Rose; a one sheet or half sheet poster for the 1929 Edwin Carewe film Evangeline; and the following first edition, first issue books in fine condition: Sherwood Anderson’s Dark Laughter (1925), William Faulkner’s Soldier’s Pay (1926), William March’s October Island (1952) and The Bad Seed (1954), and Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s Violets and Other Tales (1895) and The Goodness of St. Rocque and Other Stories (1899). We are also interested in photographs of literary figures, including John Dos Passos, Bob Kaufman, William March, and Alice Dunbar-Nelson.


Local Life and Customs

Contact: Mark Cave, 504-598-7132

Current collecting focus: Our oral history projects have been the focus of our work in documenting local life and customs. Active projects include Vieux Carré Memoir, which explores life and culture in the French Quarter; Viet Chronicle, which documents the experience of Vietnamese immigrants in New Orleans; and the New Orleans Life Story Project, which gathers long form interviews with notable New Orleanians. Planned projects include one documenting the experience of Honduran immigrants to New Orleans and a neighborhood history of the Seventh Ward of New Orleans. We are also building our documentation on sports history in New Orleans.

Items desired: Narratives of longtime French Quarter street and nightclub performers, first-generation Vietnamese and Honduran immigrants to New Orleans, and African Americans, particularly those who grew up in the Seventh Ward. We are also looking for photographs and ephemera documenting the New Orleans Pelicans baseball team.


Military History

Contact: Jason Wiese, 504-598-7183

Current collecting focus: We are looking for consular records and correspondence; papers from soldiers who engaged in conflicts ranging from the Napoleonic Wars and War of 1812 through the Mexican War and Civil War in the nineteenth century, and both World Wars in the twentieth century; printed and manuscript views of important battles or diplomatic events; commemorative objects such as medals; and vintage weapons and militaria associated with Louisiana soldiers or campaigns.

Items desired: Artifacts related to the Kemper Rebellion of 1804; items relating to the War of 1812 in the South, particularly the Battle of New Orleans; items relating to the Mexican War, particularly any papers from Daily Picayune correspondents; and correspondence or documents related to the federal occupation of New Orleans.


Music, Media and Performing Arts

Contact: Alfred Lemmon, 504-598-7124; Eric Seiferth, 504-598-7178; Nina Bozak, 504-598-7118

Current collecting focus: Emphasis is on individuals and organizations that reflect the contribution of New Orleans and Louisiana in the fields of music, dance, and theater. Particular attention is paid to composers born in New Orleans and those born elsewhere but active in New Orleans, individual performers, and presenting institutions and impresarios. In the field of classical music imprints, particular attention is paid to early editions of works that received their US premiere in New Orleans, such as Lucia di Lammermoor and Beethoven piano concerti; works with a particular New Orleans association, such as Chopin’s Mazurkas, op.7; or works shedding light on actual performance practice. Related disciplines include music printing or publishing and scenic design. Specifically concerning jazz, attention is paid to early New Orleans jazz masters, such as Jelly Roll Morton and Kid Ory; related venues; and the New Orleans jazz revival of the 1940s and onward. Concerning popular music, an effort is paid to document the diverse historical trends with a specific relation to New Orleans.

Items desired: Five Creole Songs: Harmonized and Arranged by Camille Nickerson (1942), works by Eugène Prévost such as La Esmeralda or Cosimo, William Russell’s Three Dance Movements (1936 and 1955 editions), items related to the Lyric Theater (1919–1927). Items related to the lives and work of composers Basile Barès, Edmond Dédé, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Ernest Guiraud, Genevieve Pitot, Louis Varney, Eugène Prévost, and William Russell; items related to the lives and work of performers Royes Fernandez and Fidès Devriès; and items related to Théâtre d’Orléans, St. Charles Theatre, French Opera House, the various German singing societies, Le Petit Théâtre, Gallery Circle Theatre, and Repertory Theater, New Orleans.


Politics, Government, and Law

Contact: Eric Seiferth, 504-598-7178; Aimee Everett, 504-556-7604

Current collecting focus: We are working to expand our collections on individuals and organizations related to New Orleans and Louisiana politics, including Homer Plessy, Henry James Hearsey, the Women’s Citizens’ Union, the White League, Comité des Citoyens, Ninth Ward Civic and Improvement League, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Louisiana League of Good Government. We’re also seeking materials related to post-Katrina rebuilding projects such as the construction of the biomedical corridor, Charity Hospital, public housing, and the charter schools. Types of items we’re interested in include archives (including born-digital materials), correspondence, photographs, audio, and moving images.

Items desired: A photograph or image drawn from life of Homer Plessy; organizational minutes of the Comité des Citoyens; photographs and film or video of the demolition or construction of the biomedical corridor in New Orleans; personal materials such as photographs, scrapbooks, associated ephemera, and narratives from protests and sit-ins against segregated Canal Street and Dryades Street businesses during the 1960s; and items that document the voter registration efforts of the Louisiana League of Good Government.


Science, Health and the Environment

Contact: Mark Cave, 504-598-7132; Aimee Everrett, 504-556-7604 

Current collecting focus:  We are actively documenting the lives of noted Louisiana scientists and inventors, and the history of the practice of medicine in Louisiana, including issues of public health, sanitation, and diseases or epidemics such as cholera, yellow fever, tuberculosis, and AIDS. We are developing our holdings on disasters, including Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Betsy, the 1927 flood, the floods of May 1978 and 1995, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Another area of interest is Louisiana’s unique, fragile natural landscape, and our use of levees and flood control. We would like to develop holdings that reflect both American and European Enlightenment science, as the authors and their research affected the development of Louisiana during the colonial, territorial, and early statehood periods.

Items desired: A set of Alexander Wilson’s American Ornithology and examples of John James Audubon’s depictions of Louisiana birds and mammals, especially in the double elephant folio size; photographs or papers related to the careers of Dr. Sara Tew Mayo, Dr. Rivers Frederick, Nash Roberts, and Ruth Benerito; items documenting the development of NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility; and scientific instruments used in astronomy, mapping, surveying, and navigation that bear upon the scientific climate of the region.


Social History

Contact: Aimee Everrett, 504-556-7604; Eric Seiferth, 504-598-7178

Current collecting focus: We are actively collecting items related to the experience of African Americans in Louisiana, including—but not limited to—slavery, Reconstruction, out-migrations of the 19th and 20th century, Jim Crow, the civil rights struggle, and mass incarceration. We are also documenting the experience of immigrant groups, women, the LGBT community, and other groups that tend to be underrepresented in the historical record, as well as collecting items that provide insight into the family and daily life of ordinary New Orleanians.

Items desired: Plantation papers, including antebellum and postbellum correspondence, ledgers, and account books; political and family papers, labor contracts, and manuscript and printed materials related to Reconstruction and New Orleans’s 19th-century civil rights movement and its leading figures, especially Homer Plessy, Louis Charles Roudanez, Paul Trévigne, and Rodolphe Desdunes; early photography of and by African Americans from or connected to Louisiana; materials related to black-owned businesses, recreation areas—particularly Lincoln Beach—social aid and pleasure clubs, and benevolent societies; family papers, photographs, and other materials related to the Great Migration; images or correspondence related to the Storyville District of New Orleans, Bourbon Street entertainers, and personal papers related to Sylvanie Williams, Edith Stern, Sara T. Mayo, Eleanor McMain, Reverend Avery Alexander, Oretha Castle Haley, Dorothy Mae Taylor, and A. L. Davis.