New Orleans Review - A Short, Sweet Visit

My recent visit to New Orleans was short, sweet and absolutely fascinating. I went there to attend a graduation at the University of New Orleans, a university I had not known previously, but learned that it is well respected locally. Attending the graduation provided me the opportunity to see Lake Ponchitrain, which, according to Wikipedia “covers an area of 630 square miles with an average depth of 12 to 14 feet”.  After graduation, the city was "my oyster".

 

Sculpture Garden

 

Thinking of New Orleans, what come to my mind is: the French Quarter, balconies, food, music, and funerals.  I learned about The World War II Museum (which everyone said was outstanding but my time did not allow for a visit), The Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum (see below), Brennan’s (from which we observed wedding after wedding “second lining”) and the city park, which houses NOMA  and its Sculpture Garden. In addition, there were two restaurants we especially enjoyed - Dominica’s Restaurant for dinner where the cauliflower was amazing, and biscuit & buns on banks where we enjoyed a Mother’s Day brunch.

  

Spider

 

Siegel figures and people

 

Upside down

A relative told me about a unique museum, the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum. During the worst of Hurricane Katrina, the lower ninth ward was continually in the news, especially because it almost completely washed away.  Located in a home that somehow survived the hurricane, this museum acts to preserve the extensive history of the area and also functions as a community center.

  

Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum

 

Room 1- A geographical orientation of where the ward is locted

 

Room 2- People who have lived in this ward over time

My friend, who was visiting the museum with me, was surprised by the numbers of homes that have sprung up in the area since an earlier visit about three years ago. Different than most museums I have visited, its mission is to “promote community empowerment through remembering the past, sharing stories of the present, and planning for the future.”

  

Room 3- Many US Presidents visited when disaster struck and it did many times

 

Room 4 - stories of neighborhood heroes

 

Room 4-protesting for fair treatment

The museum is always free.  What surprised my most was the way in which the small space was used.  It was very effective in conveying the story of this part of New Orleans.  There is an energy in the museum that to me seemed to parallel the energy of this ward.  The history of poverty, government neglect, and strong community engagement is reflected.  To date, only one in five residents have been able to return to their homes since Hurricane Katrina. What stayed with me is that this last incident is just the most recent in a series of events that stretch over more than a hundred years.

  

Room 5-Responses from visitors to the museum

 

Rebecca Cooper and neighborhood friends

 

Marquette University students

The displays in the museum are compelling and accessible. and include oral histories from community members,  exhibits of key events from the history of the Lower Ninth Ward, as well as cultural events. The museum received many visitors during the time I was there.  About 65 of these young people were from Marquette University in Wisconsin.  A member of the group explained that three times a year, volunteers come to help out with this museum.  I was pleased to have had this visit.

  

Robert E. Lee - gone

Driving toward the museum we passed the grand statue of Robert E. Lee.  At that point it was the last statue of Confederate leaders that had graced New Orleans that was still in place.  I didn’t realize how quickly it would be removed -it is there no more.  In connection to this, I became aware that New Orleans is preparing to celebrate its 300th birthday.

 

This promises to be some event!  It would be a good idea to begin planning a visit soon if you want to celebrate New Orleans.

 

Photos:  B. Keer

 

*”A Brass band leads the bridal party and the guests from the church to the reception venue or it may take place at the reception itself. A Second Line Parade has two parts. The first line is usually a brass band and the ones being honored, the bride and groom.”

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