Exhibition | New Orleans, the Founding Era

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on March 13, 2018

François Chéreau, Le Missisipi ou la Louisiane dans l’Amérique Septentrionale, ca. 1720, hand-colored engraving (The Historic New Orleans Collection, 1959.210).

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Now on view at THNOC:

New Orleans, the Founding Era
The Historic New Orleans Collection, 27 February — 27 May 2018

Curated by Erin Greenwald

In commemoration of the city’s 300th anniversary in 2018, The Historic New Orleans Collection provides a multifaceted exploration of the city’s first few decades and its earliest inhabitants with New Orleans, the Founding Era, an original exhibition and bilingual companion catalog. The exhibition brings together a vast array of rare artifacts from THNOC’s holdings and from institutions across Europe and North America to tell the stories of the city’s early days, when the city consisted of little more than hastily assembled huts and buildings.

Beginning with the region’s Native American tribes, through the waves of European arrival and the forced migration of enslaved African people, the exhibition reflects on the complicated and often conflicted meanings the settlement’s development held for individuals, empires, and indigenous nations. It features works on paper, ethnographic and archaeological artifacts, scientific and religious instruments, paintings, maps and charts, manuscripts and rare books. These original objects are complemented by large-scale reproductions and interactive items. More than 75 objects are on loan from organizations in Spain, France, Canada, and around the United States. A number of items, like a pair of 18th-century Native American bear-paw moccasins from the Musée du quai Branly in Paris and pieces of 15th-century Mississippian pottery from the University of Mississippi, have rarely traveled beyond their home institutions.

Digital interactives will include a gallery of photographs from archaeological digs at a variety of French Quarter sites, a game quizzing visitors on supplies needed for a new home in the settlement and a 1731 inventory of enslaved Africans and African-descended people living on a West Bank plantation.

Erin Greenwald, ed., New Orleans, the Founding Era / La Nouvelle-Orléans, les années fondatrices, translated by Henry Colomer (New Orleans: The Historic New Orleans Collection, 2018), 176 pages, ISBN 978-0917860744, $50.

The companion catalog—a bilingual edition, in English and French—will feature essays describing the different populations who inhabited precolonial New Orleans and the surrounding areas, as well as the forces driving the settlement’s growth. Essayists include exhibition curator Erin M. Greenwald and historians Emily Clark, Shannon Lee Dawdy, Robbie Ethridge, Gilles-Antoine Langlois, Yevan Terrien, Daniel Usner, and Cécile Vidal. Gérard Araud, ambassador of France to the United States, contributed the book’s foreword.

Erin M. Greenwald is curator of programs at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Formerly, as curator at The Historic New Orleans Collection, she was project director of the National Endowment for the Humanities-funded traveling exhibition Purchased Lives: The American Slave Trade from 1808 to 1865. Greenwald holds a PhD in history from the Ohio State University.

Henry Colomer is a French documentary filmmaker and translator. He has directed some thirty films, including various portraits of artists and writers (L’exilé, Iddu, Ricercar, Vies métalliques), as well as a number of documentaries about the upheavals of the twentieth century (Monte Verità, Sous les drapeaux). Colomer has won several awards (Best Historic Documentary, Festival of History Films, Pessac, 1998, 2008; Focal International Award, London, 2010).


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