ur all-too-brief spring in New Orleans usually means festivals, crawfish and all things outside. Some of these events are still on hold, however we’re still looking for ways to expose kids to our culture and history. The Historic New Orleans Collection has been working hard to make that happen with virtual field trips as well as ongoing exhibitions.
Since 1966, THNOC’s mission has been preserving, promoting and exposing visitors to everything New Orleans and the Gulf South. Their sites in the French Quarter are part museum and part research center with exhibitions and events throughout the year. While the museum is currently open and always offers free admission, appointments must be made in advance, guided tours have been suspended and buildings are open at a reduced capacity.
One of the current exhibitions is artist Susan Gisleson’s “Land of Dreams,” a 1,500 square foot art installation that the artist describes as a “love letter to New Orleans’ summer.” The exhibit features life-size collages that bring kids back to the summers experienced by their parents and grandparents, featuring vintage postcards of Audubon and City parks, the 1984 World’s Fair and the now-gone Royal Street Pennyland arcade. In an effort to showcase the various oases we create to shield us from the summer heat, the exhibit also has a bed filled with books (“a bed filled with stories, because that’s typically where we have our dreams,” Gisleson says), parasols made of fern leaves hanging from the ceiling and oversized photos
of water lilies dotting the floor.
While THNOC has a wealth of digital resources, the biggest innovation since the onset of the pandemic has been its virtual field trips. While the specific trips change according to a schedule, they largely aim to expose children to topics not traditionally covered in school. For example, a field trip about Louisiana Indigenous history is a 30-minute journey into our region long before European settlement. Kids can learn about Bulbancha and how it was a land of diversity and trade. They can also listen to a Chitimacha legend about the origins of Bayou Teche and create an artistic interpretation of the legend. Other topics include New Orleans and the domestic slave trade and Reconstruction in New Orleans, and they also host regular chats with the staff. While the field trips are designed for elementary-school aged children, the resources are vast enough that an enterprising high schooler could find an excellent term paper topic or research project.
While all of the past virtual field trips are on YouTube, THNOC also can curate individualized field trips for groups. Although this seems like a good idea for teachers, this option is also a great idea for families looking for an activity that can be followed up by visits to the sites presented virtually. You can select one of their topics, but you can also have them create a personalized trip on a topic of your choice. While they do need two weeks’ notice to prepare and require a registration form, these personalized “trips” are something that can bring together family and friends of all ages.
When you’ve lived in New Orleans for as long as some of our longtime residents, it can seem as if there’s nothing left to discover about our city. However, THNOC is challenging young people to forego that notion, perhaps giving them a chance to teach us something new in the process.
➺ Just the Facts:
Virtual Field Trips HNOC.org/programs/virtual-field-trips
(For COVID-19 protocols, visit their HNOC.org before visiting.)
Open Tuesdays-Saturdays, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and Sundays, 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
520 Royal St.
• Offerings include interpretative courtyard displays, the Tricentennial Wing galleries, The Shop at The Collection and Café Cour.
• Exhibitions are free and self-guided.
533 Royal St.
• Offerings include interpretative courtyard displays, the Louisiana
History Galleries and the Williams Residence.
• Exhibitions are free and self-guided.
410 Chartres St. (This location is closed Sundays-Mondays.)
• Offerings include the Williams Research Center and exhibitions.
• Admission to the Williams Research Center is free, but appointments are required and should be scheduled in advance. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 504-598-7171 to schedule a visit.
• Appointments will be taken following a short consultation with a reference staff member to ensure that on-site research is the best option.