Mardi Gras Museums: A break from the crowds

I’ve been to New Orleans twice, neither time for Mardi Gras, but to absorb the history, aesthetics, Cajun food and music after mornings that began with beignets and coffee at Cafe Du Monde. The Mardi Gras, although months past, did still hang in the air. Two museums are dedicated to highlighting what makes this historical, rich cultural icon mega party so important and interesting.

At Presbytere, once home to Caspian monks, the span of Mardi Gras history from the 1699 is told in themed exhibits. If you wonder how did all this frivolity start anyway, the answers are here. Floats, costumes, masks, historical background information, and interactive displays are geared for all ages. The museum’s Web site calls this a place that kids of all ages will like. The museum is located at Jackson Square in the heart of the city.

Another Mardi Gras themed museum is, Backstreet Cultural Museum located in the oldest African American neighborhood in the city. The museum used to be a funeral home. Today, among other items such as photographs and vintage films, it boasts the largest collection of Mardi Gras Indian costumes which are elaborate treasures. The Mardi Gras Indians have a history that dates back to the 18th and 19th century when runaway slaves sought safety with the area Indians. The costumes can only be worn the year they were made. I’d be interested in going here because of the unique perspective it offers on both African American history and Native American history. Plus, the costumes in their feathered and beaded glory sound fabulous.

Other exhibits are dedicated to the tradition of Jazz Funerals and Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs. Gaining perspective on what makes life in New Orleans interesting and the traditions that have made it famous and unique can be had here.