A must for history buffs and lovers of the city, the Historic New Orleans Collection connects the dots in more than three centuries of New Orleans lore. A museum, research center, and publisher, the Historic New Orleans Collection was founded in 1966 to preserve the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South region. Located in a historic complex of French Quarter buildings, 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 Historic New Orleans Collection operates two campuses in the French Quarter. Located in the historic Merieult House, one of very few surviving buildings from the Spanish Colonial period (533 Royal Street), visitors can explore the Louisiana History Galleries, discover threads of regional history and culture through rotating exhibitions or take guided tours among seven historic buildings, including the historic Williams home, which is full of gorgeous Louisiana antiques and a collection of Chinese porcelains. The Royal Street Complex also includes the Counting House, Maisonette, Williams Residence, Townhouse, the Louis Adams House and a Creole Cottage.
At 400–410 Chartres Street, the collections's Williams Research Center offers researchers access to the institution’s vast holdings, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art showcase fine art created in or inspired by Louisiana. The holdings consist of some 35,000 library items, and approximately 350,000 photographs, prints, drawings, paintings, and other artifacts. 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.
The Historic New Orleans Collection's rotating exhibitions have showcased a wide variety of topics relating to the history and culture of the Gulf South region and the peoples who have influenced it, ranging from the Battle of New Orleans to the development of New Orleans cuisine to more modern subjects, such as the Sugar Bowl and life after Hurricane Katrina. Currently, the museum's exhibits include: Clarence John Laughlin and His Contemporaries: A Picture and a Thousand Words, Goods of Every Description: Shopping in New Orleans, 1825–1925, The Anne and Dick Stephens Collection of Louisiana Decoys and Wildfowl Artifacts, and The Seignouret-Brulatour House: A New Chapter.
The gift shop offers reproduction maps and prints, jewelry and gifts by local artists and the Collection's own publications as well as many other titles related to the culture and history of New Orleans and Louisiana. Many of the items in this shop can only be found at The Historic New Orleans Collection.
The Historic New Orleans Collection is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (except holidays). Tours of the history galleries and the Williams Residence are at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m., Groups of eight or more require a reservation. The best part is admission to the museum and self-guided tours are FREE. Volunteers are plentiful throughout the buildings and are very well-versed in the city's history. Guided tours start at $5.