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​Choosing to Remember: Museum Month’s Hurricane Katrina Exhibits

As the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches on August 29, several local museums are featuring exhibits that focus on the storm.

Forgetting is hard. But sometimes remembering is even harder.

As the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches on August 29, a handful of museums will be featuring exhibits focused on the storm – and on the resilience of New Orleanians and their city. The role of museums is to preserve our past and our history – which is sometimes painful or unsettling – for posterity and for educational purposes. If you’re interested in understanding the storm and its effects at a deeper level, consider reflecting at one of these exhibits.

New Orleans Museum Month Exhibits

NOMA: Ten Years Gone

The New Orleans Museum of Art’s Ten Years Gone is a multimedia exhibit that explores the themes of time, memory, loss, and transformation through more abstract visualizations than outright images of devastation. While the exhibit is relevant within the context of Hurricane Katrina and the decade that followed, it is also significant within a larger context of pressing ecological issues and family life. A collaboration of six artists, Ten Years Gone is on view through September 7.

Etang 04, 2013 (Image courtesy of the artist, Isabelle Hayeur)
Etang 04, 2013, part of Ten Years Gone at NOMA. (Image courtesy of the artist, Isabelle Hayeur)

Contemporary Arts Center: REVERB: Past, Present, Future

The Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans’ REVERB: Past, Present, Future takes a look at the changes in local and regional art and artistic practices from Hurricane Katrina to today. The multimedia exhibit features interactive video, textiles, and even a historical reenactment that highlights the link between artistic expression and historic and current events. REVERB is on view now through November 1.

The Historic New Orleans Collection: The Katrina Decade: Images of an Altered City

The Katrina Decade: Images of an Altered City, which will be on view at the Historic New Orleans Collection from Aug. 22 through Jan. 9, 2016, is a collection of 77 photographs from New Orleans-based photographer David Spielman. The themes that emerge throughout the exhibit are the destruction brought on by Katrina and the stunted recovery in many parts of the city. Also accompanying Spielman’s photographs are archives from the Unified New Orleans Plan and photographs of FEMA-funded demolitions.

Uptown; 2013; ©David G. Spielman; from “The Katrina Decade: Images of an Altered City” (THNOC 2015)
Uptown; 2013; ©David G. Spielman; from “The Katrina Decade: Images of an Altered City” (Photo courtesy The Historic New Orleans Collection)

Louisiana State Museum’s the Presbytere: Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond

The Presbytere’s Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond, which opened for the hurricane’s fifth anniversary, is one of the museum’s two permanent exhibits. At approximately 7,000 square feet, the exhibit features interactive components as well as personal artifacts that take visitors through the storm itself and its aftermath, including the levee failures, rescue efforts, and the city’s recovery in the years since.

Louisiana State Museum's the Presbytere (photo courtesy of Mark J. Sindler/Louisiana State Museum
Louisiana State Museum’s the Presbytere (Photo courtesy Mark J. Sindler/Louisiana State Museum)

Other Hurricane Katrina Exhibits

Levees.org: Levee Exhibit Hall and Rain Garden

The nonprofit Levees.org recently opened the Levee Exhibit Hall and Rain Garden which takes visitors outside the walls of the typical museum and under a 100-foot outdoor walkway that features six museum-quality panels. Located near the site of the London Avenue Canal breach in Gentilly, the exhibit focuses on the myths associated with Hurricane Katrina, especially in regards to the levee failures. This permanent (so long as Levees.org is able to continue leasing the lot) exhibit is free and open to the public.

American Institute of Architects New Orleans: 10 Years 10 Stories: Architecture of Recovery

AIA New Orleans’ 10 Years 10 Stories: Architecture of Recovery is a small-scale but information-rich exhibit on the city’s recovery over the last 10 years. The emphasis is, unsurprisingly, on architecture and urban planning and the role of the professionals in these fields in bringing New Orleans’ built environment back to life. The exhibit’s name, 10 Years 10 Stories, speaks to the 10 themes into which the exhibit is divided, including resiliency, equality, and policy, among others. Sharpies are available to visitors to write answers to the prompt, “What’s Next for New Orleans?” The exhibit is free, on view through September 24, and open weekdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

AIA 10 Years 10 Stories: Architecture of Recovery (photo by Emily Ramirez Hernandez)
AIA 10 Years 10 Stories: Architecture of Recovery (Photo: Emily Ramirez Hernandez)

Lagniappe

Hurricane Katrina Digital Memory Bank Project

Through the month of August, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, in partnership with the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, offers community members the opportunity to document their personal memories of Hurricane Katrina. Participants may choose to record their responses to, “Ten years later I still remember…” at computer stations at the museum or to scribe their memories on paper that will be included in an exhibition.

Also during the month of August, several local museums are participating in New Orleans Museum Month, which offers free admission for two to members of any of the participating museums (memberships start as low as $10 for students and $25 for individuals at some museums).

Emily Ramírez Hernández is the child of New Orleans natives whose families have been in the city for generations. Emily's earliest memories of New Orleans include joyful car rides over bumpy streets, eating dripping roast beef po-boys at Domilise's, and catching bouncy balls during Mardi Gras parades with cousins. An urban planner by day and freelance writer by night, when she is off the clock she enjoys biking around town, belly dancing, and catching nerdlesque shows.

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