New Orleans museum struggles to cope after hurricanes and pandemic

The collection may have been Mr Francis’ dream, but many people felt a sense of belonging, said Jonn Hankins, longtime local art curator. “They know this collection the same way a family knows their sons and daughters,” he said.

When Mr. Francis passed away, Ms. Francis-Dilling followed his instructions. First of all, she organized a massive jazz funeral in his honor. Then she entered the museum, giving tours filled with the tales she had heard growing up. “He could get his hands on anything here and tell a story,” she said. “He lived it. I’ve learned it.

Now, with the relocation of the museum, she feels the urgency to reopen quickly to preserve her father’s legacy.

Staying in Tremé is crucial, she said, both to keep tourist foot traffic and to fulfill her father’s dream of maintaining the neighborhood’s deep culture.

Other members of the community also took action.

Jeremy Stevenson, a great chief of the Monogram Hunters tribe who lives two doors down from the old Backstreet building, began working side by side with Mrs. Francis-Dilling, just as other chiefs had done for her. father, to computerize handwritten stacks of Mr. Francis’ spiral-bound notebooks cataloging the collection.

A few blocks from the dark Backstreet building, Gia Hamilton, a New Orleans native and executive director of the nearby African American New Orleans Museum, heard the news and began exploring the options. While a few large cultural entities have offered to buy part of the collection from Ms Francis-Dilling, Ms Hamilton rejects what she calls a ‘colonizing’ tradition of museum collection, preferring to keep an independent view of ‘who owns it. the collection and where it came from. “

Shortly before Christmas, Ms. Hamilton offered the Backstreet a one-year lease on a house at the back of the African American Museum campus. While Ms Francis-Dilling is still trying to raise funds to make the deal possible, she hopes to reopen in the new space early next year.

“I just want to make my dad proud,” she said softly. “That’s all we talked about is keeping the museum going.”

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