"From Cameo to Close-up: Louisiana in Film" continues at The Historic New Orleans Collection through November 26 — Photo courtesy of Beth D'Addono
In a city known for loud, The Historic New Orleans Collection is an oasis of calm and culture in the French Quarter. Housed in two campuses at 533 Royal Street and 410 Chartres Street in New Orleans, the beautifully restored series of 18th-century Spanish Colonial buildings are worth a visit just for their graceful beauty.
But for lovers of the city and for history buffs, the collection connects the dots in more than three centuries of New Orleans lore. A museum, research center and publisher, the collection was founded in 1966 to preserve the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South.
Free, changing exhibits are on the ground floor in the Williams Gallery, and an incredible collection of maps, documents, drawings and sketches can be viewed on a guided tour of the historic Merieult House, which includes the upstairs Louisiana History Galleries.
Even non-history lovers will get a kick out of the current exhibit, From Cameo to Close-up: Louisiana in Film, curated by Mark Cave and running through November 26, 2014. Using a quirky collection of video, posters, lobby cards, photos and even original scripts, the show looks at both classic and lesser-known films made in New Orleans and Louisiana.
Currently a hotbed of film production, thanks largely to tax incentives passed by the state legislature in 2002, Louisiana currently ranks third in film production behind California and New York.
“We wanted to take a historical perspective on how filmmaking impacts tourism and influences other people’s perception of our city and state,” explains Cave, who may be a historian but also has an appreciation for campy, locally made films like The Alligator People and The Wacky World of Dr. Morgus.
A free monthly film series on the last Saturday of every month screens one of the referenced movies, as well as Hush . . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte, The Cincinnati Kid, Blaze, Miller’s Crossing and These Amazing Shadows.
The Historic New Orleans Collection also includes an impressive staffed research center – for doing some checking up on famous residents like voodoo queen Marie Laveau, should you get the urge. The research archives are especially focused on documents relating to the Battle of New Orleans and the War of 1812 in the South, including rare books, maps and plans that collectively tell the story of one of the greatest military upsets of all time.
You can also tour the historic Williams home, which is full of gorgeous Louisiana antiques and a collection of Chinese porcelains.