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Arts & Culture

New Orleans Museums: 10 Lesser-Known Gems

With so much history and culture in New Orleans, there are a lot of museums to tell its story and here are 10 you may not have heard of.

You might expect that a city such as New Orleans, one with a rich history and talented community of artists, would likely be home to many museums.  And you would be right!  You have probably heard of the crowd-drawing museums like the National World War II Museum or New Orleans Museum of Art, and those are popular for a reason, but there are also a host of more under the radar, specialized museums in New Orleans that are worth a visit.  Here’s a sampling of 10 New Orleans museums you may not hear about every day, but that you should make plans to explore soon.

10 Unique New Orleans Museums

Backstreet Cultural Museum: If you want to see a vibrant collection of suits that the oft-elusive Mardi Gras Indians don in their parades and gatherings, this is your place.  They also keep a chronicle of annual jazz funerals and have the most comprehensive documentation of African-American masking and processional activities in the world.  Backstreet was started in the late 1980s by Sylvester Francis out of his garage, but eventually moved into this historic Treme location in 1999.

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A colorful exhibit inside the Backstreet Cultural Museum in the Treme (Photo courtesy of Backstreet Cultural Museum)

New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum: Learn about the history of voodoo rituals and purchase your very own voodoo doll, gris gris bag, or healing candle.  This museum is located near Jackson Square and also offers a walking tour that will take you to Marie Laveau’s tomb.

Preservation Resource Center: The Center is dedicated to preserving New Orleans architecture and serves as an educational area and resource on home buying.  It is located in the Warehouse District; pop in to look at the models of historic buildings or browse the book selection.

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New Orleans Pharmacy Museum (Photo by Natasha Stamper, @tashiemunster via Instagram)

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum: In the Vieux Carre area, this museum is the former apothecary shop of the first licensed pharmacist in America, Louis Dufilho, Jr.  Exhibits include one on questionable medical practices, such as using leeches, and one on voodoo potions. “American Horror Story” fans will be excited to learn the courtyard here was featured on Season 3.

Musee Conti Wax Museum: The tours here are self-guided unless you book a guided tour with a group. There are fun tour options for children that include interactive scavenger hunts within the museum, which is dedicated to illustrating New Orleans history through wax sculpture. There are more than 150 wax figures on display, and you’re bound to learn something you didn’t know when you entered.

Beauregard-Keyes House and Garden Museum: Located in the French Quarter, this house was restored by late resident Frances Parkinson Keyes and is now overseen by the foundation in her name. Quite some time before Keyes occupied the house, General Beauregard lived there in the late 1860s. The collection of artwork and furniture that is now on display in the house is the style that would have been relevant when he lived there.

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Inside the historic Beauregard-Keyes House (Photo by Cheryl Gerber)

New Canal Lighthouse Museum and Education Center: The lighthouse is in Lakeview on Lakeshore Drive near the scenic Lake Pontchartrain. It was rebuilt in September 2012, although the original construction was done in 1839, and it is Louisiana’s only working lighthouse that also contains a museum.

Le Musee de f.p.c.: “f.p.c.” refers to “free people of color,” a community of individuals who were born free of slavery or freed by their owners before the Civil War. Le Musee de f.p.c. showcases the history and works of free people of color throughout early New Orleans history with a collection that includes paintings, photos, and sculptures.

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The Pitot House along Bayou St. John (Photo by Sally Tunmer)

Pitot House: This house was restored by the Louisiana Landmarks Society and now serves as its headquarter site for preservation education. Visiting the Pitot House gives you a feel for what life was like on the bayou for earlier settlers of New Orleans, and it’s the only Creole colonial country house that’s open to the public.

Hermann-Grima House: Run by The Women’s Exchange, this house was originally a single-women’s dormitory, as well as a tea shop and consignment store. Since the early 1970s, the museum has been a space to illustrate the early 1800s in New Orleans, otherwise known as the “Golden Age” in the city.

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