Backstreet Cultural Museum
A powerhouse of knowledge, the Backstreet Cultural Museum is the essence of New Orleans. Its historic location is filled with exhibits reflecting aspects of the unique cultural traditions and institutions of African-American culture in New Orleans, Mardi Gras Indians, Jazz Funerals and Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs.
More importantly, Backstreet reflects the spirit and soul of our treasured city. At anytime you will find Mardi Gras Indians, Jazz musicians, community leaders, and others devoted to the endurance of New Orleans culture flowing in and out of the Museum. The Museum also serves as a focal point for meeting and organizing cultural events for the Treme neighborhood.
There is never a dull day at the Backstreet Cultural Museum, from Second Line parades to conjuring Mardi Gras Indian spirits, everyday is a celebration of cultural traditions for the residents of the area and we invite you to come and experience a glimpse of the culture on the backstreets of New Orleans.
The mission of the Backstreet Cultural Museum is to present and preserve the unique cultural traditions of New Orleans’ African-American society, including Mardi Gras Indians, jazz funerals, and social aid and pleasure clubs.
“The Backstreet Cultural Museum deceives upon first glance – its rather plain-looking appearance from the street belies a rainbow of colors that peacock inside. Step through the doors of this eclectic museum and you’ll find some of the most fascinating glimpses into the African-American Mardi Gras traditions, from the dazzling feathered costumes of the Mardi Gras Indians, to a detailed photographic history of Jazz Funerals, Second Lines, and the area’s Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs. The entire museum has been the life’s work of Sylvester Francis, who has devoted most of his adult life to taking photos of the Mardi Gras celebrations.” -National Geographic Intelligent Traveler, Feb.09
The Backstreet Cultural Museum was founded in 1999 by Sylvester Francis as a community-based cultural institution dedicated to exhibiting the material culture – principally costumes, artifacts, memorabilia, and photographs – connected to New Orleans’ richly varied, unique, and traditional African American parading traditions, including Mardi Gras Indians, jazz funerals, Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs, Baby Dolls, and Skull & Bone groups. Over the past 30 years Mr. Francis has produced an astonishingly extensive, cohesive, and visually arresting record of these cultures and the communities that contain and embrace them. With filmed records of more than 500 events, the Backstreet Museum is home to the world’s largest and most important collection documenting these uniquely New Orleans cultural traditions.
The Backstreet Museum contains the most comprehensive collection of Social Aid and Pleasure Club costumes, Mardi Gras Indian suits, artifacts, and memorabilia associated with each of these distinctive African American parading and community-based cultural traditions unique to New Orleans. As a grassroots cultural organization that supports New Orleans’ unique cultural traditions created by working-class African Americans, the Backstreet Cultural Museum upholds the arts as a form of community empowerment.
The Backstreet Cultural Museum is housed in the former Blandin Funeral Home, an iconic institution of the Tremé neighborhood, and is located directly across from the historic St. Augustine Church. Founded by free people of color, St. Augustine has the distinction of being the first church in North America where slaves, whites, and free people of color worshipped together under one roof. The proximity of the Backstreet Cultural Museum to an institution of such historic and spiritual significance has contributed to making the area that the church and museum occupy an important and resonant locus of African American culture and collective memory in New Orleans. The Backstreet Cultural Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 AM – 5 PM every week of the year.
PROGRAMMING – ANNUAL EVENTS
Mardi Gras Open House | Mardi Gras Day
The Backstreet Cultural Museum hosts a Mardi Gras Open House every year on Mardi Gras. Skull & Bone gangs and Mardi Gras Indian tribes come to the museum to dance and sing and show their new suits to the community.
Treme Call – Out and Dance | Summer
Each year, usually in the summer months, the Backstreet Cultural Museum sponsors a Tremé Call-Out and Dance. The event provides an opportunity to honor people who have made important contributions to backstreet culture.
Back – to – School Picnic | August
In August of each year, the Backstreet Cultural Museum also sponsors a Back-to-School picnic for the youth of Tremé at which school equipment are provided to help ease the burden for needy families who cannot afford to purchase these items for their children. The picnic also provides a means for the Backstreet Cultural Museum and neighborhood businesses, individuals and other donors to let New Orleans children know how much we value their education.