The Historic New Orleans Collection

This post is about the Historic New Orleans Collection, one of the best museums in the city. Their exhibits are free and definitely worth a stop, particularly for history buffs. In addition to the art galleries and concerts they offer, you can also take a tour of the ten historic buildings on both of their campuses, including the Williams House. 

Plan Your Visit
Main Exhibits
Historic Buildings
Concerts
Tours
Free Things to Do in New Orleans

 

 


PLAN YOUR VISIT

With so many services offered by the Historic New Orleans Collection, it can be difficult to keep track of everything. Whether you’re wondering when you can visit the museum or where they are located, we’ll help you to figure out everything you need to know for a fun and educational trip to THNOC.


When can I visit THNOC?

The Historic New Orleans Collection is open to the public on every day except Monday. Their hours are as follows:

  • Tue-Sat from 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM
  • Sun from 10:30 AM – 4:30 PM

Where is THNOC located?

The Historic New Orleans Collection currently has two campuses comprising a total of 10 different historic buildings. If you want to see either the Louisiana History Galleries or the Williams residence, make your way to the Royal Street Campus at 533 Royal Street (map). Alternatively, you can also visit the Chartres Street Campus where they house the Williams Research Center at 410 Chartres Street (map).

How do I get to THNOC?

If you plan to drive to The Historic New Orleans Collection, you’ll find plenty of public parking in the area. Alternatively, you can also use the parking lots offered on the 500 block of Chartres Street and the 500 block of Conti Street.

We recommend using the Google map links above for directions to either location.  There you will find walking, bus, bike and car directions from any starting point.  Anyone taking public transportation will want to take Bus #5 or #55 to the corner of Decatur Street and St Louis Street. Walk up St Louis Street two blocks and turn right on Royal Street to find THNOC. Alternatively, you can also take Streetcar 49 down N Rampart Street until you reach the stop at Conti Street. From there, walk north one block to St Louis Street and 4 blocks south to Royal Street. Once you’ve reached Royal Street, you need only walk north until you see the campus.

Is everything at THNOC free?

No. There are several activities and services which are not free. However, these events are usually very affordable, with tickets rarely ever exceeding $15 per person. The permanent Louisiana History Galleries are and will always be free, but some of the other opportunities offered by this organization do come with a price tag.

How do I find out about new events?

The Historic New Orleans Collection has a calendar on their website which provides information about each exhibit and event that is currently open to the public. THNOC changes their exhibits and activities frequently, so their calendar is a great way to keep in touch. In addition, you’ll also find a lot of current events and activities listed on their front page.

 

 


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HISTORIC BUILDINGS

The Historic New Orleans Collection is currently housed in two campuses on both Royal Street and Chartres Street. Between these two locations, they own a total of ten historic and significant buildings. THNOC offers tours through some of their properties, providing a plethora of interesting information about each site. Whether or not you decide to take one of these tours, history buffs will certainly enjoy the opportunity to discover some of the most notable real estate in New Orleans.

 


Merieult House

This land was once owned by the French Crown in the 1700’s, but a private residence was eventually built. After a great fire reduced the property to rubble in 1788, Jean François Merieult purchased the land in 1792 and began construction of their own house. The Merieult House has seen five owners over the years, and it now serves as the entrance to the Royal Street Campus of the Historic New Orleans Collection.

The Counting House

Named after the activities of the Lizardi Brothers firm, this building was once used primarily for banking. Before it became a counting house, this location was originally built as a warehouse for the business of Jean François Merieult. Today, the Counting House is used for a variety of events such as exhibitions, meetings, seminars, and receptions.

The Maisonette

This three-story Maisonette is right across the courtyard from the Counting House. Located on land that was part of the original purchase from Merieult, the Maisonette was constructed around the same time period as the Merieult House. Today, this building is used to provide offices to the staff of the Historic New Orleans Collection.

Williams Residence

You’ll find this two-story brick townhouse nestled away in the courtyard of the Royal Street campus. Built on the former site of Merieult’s stables, the Williams Residence was originally designed as a private home for the owner of the Merieult House, which had been re-purposed into the Royal House hotel. When Kemper and Leila Williams purchased the property in 1938, the townhouse became their own residence until they later moved to the Garden District. To this day, the Historic New Orleans Collection ensures that the furnishings and decor look exactly as they did in the 1940s.

The Townhouse

Although this land was not part of the original parcel purchased by Merieult, he would eventually go on to buy it. The property would be sold to an international merchant by the name of Vincent Nolte in the early 1800s. Today, this townhouse is included on the Royal Street campus and the Historic New Orleans Collection uses the building as office space for their staff.

Louis Adam House

Originally built in 1788 by Louis Adam, this house has changed hands several times over the years. Despite all of the different owners and some of the changes/renovations they made to the house, it still remains one of the oldest and most historic buildings in the area. Tennessee Williams was one of the most famous tenets of this house, and he would go on to write such plays as A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. After the Williams family bought this land in 1945, they repaired the building and it was eventually restored to its original architectural style. Like many of the buildings on this campus, the Louis Adam House is now used as office space for THNOC.

The Creole Cottage

This double cottage located at the rear of the Royal Street campus is one of the newest acquisitions by the Historic New Orleans Collection. After an archaeological dig in 1991, it was determined that the first European-built structure was a French barracks in the 1720s. Unfortunately, the barracks eventually burnt down in the great fire of 1788 and the land would eventually be used to build a cottage. Today, this building is used to prepare exhibitions for THNOC.

Williams Research Center

In addition to all the historic land on Royal Street, THNOC also owns a campus on Chartres Street which includes this fantastic research center. The building itself was constructed in 1915, but when it was purchased by the state of Louisiana in 1957, it had been empty for several years. Eventually, the Historic New Orleans Collection would purchase the building and use it for research purposes. Although you are free to visit during business hours, it’s important to note that they do require you to follow very specific guidelines while using the reading room and looking around.

Williams Research Center Addition

Constructed in 2007, this addition gave THNOC much-needed space for archival storage and exhibition preparation. Oddly enough, the architectural design was based on a drawing of a hotel which once existed on this very lot back in the 1850s. The result is that this building fits in with much of the older architectural styles that you will find on Chartres Street. Although it doesn’t function as a hotel, the Williams Research Center Addition provides a lot of extra space for the ever-growing Historic New Orleans Collection.

Perrilliat House

This three-story building is yet another expansion of the Williams Research Center. The structure was recently renovated, bringing it back to its original architectural style. The Perrilliat House includes additional space for new galleries, a large photography lab, executive offices, and work areas for curators.

 


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FREE EXHIBITS

The Historic New Orleans Collection houses several limited collections at any given time. Even though tickets for most of them are affordable, it’s worth noting that there are always at least one or two exhibits which you can see for free. Some of these installations are permanent, but others will only be around for anywhere from a few months to a year. No matter what your interest, we recommend making a trip to the THNOC to enjoy the artwork and historic artifacts without paying a dime.


Louisiana History Galleries

Anyone interested in learning the history of Louisiana will want to take a look at this incredible collection. Featuring various works of art and relics dating as far back as the 1800s, this exhibit is an absolute must for both locals and visitors from out of town. In addition to pieces that are centuries old, you’ll also find artistic and historic items which focus on events as recent as Hurricane Katrina. Needless to say, there’s plenty to see at this permanent installation, and it’s all entirely free of charge. Each gallery includes iPad kiosks that you can use to experience the history of Louisiana with additional audio/visual detail.


Prospect.4

This exhibition features two galleries of contemporary photography from Tony Gleaton and Monique Verdin. Gleaton’s gallery includes work from two previous shows – Africa’s Legacy in Mexico and Cowboys: Reconstructing an American Myth. Verdin’s gallery features not only photographs but also palmetto tapestry with her photos interwoven. Unfortunately, Propsect.4 is a limited exhibit and it will only be available until February 25th, 2018. Admission is free for all visitors.


Mardis Gras at Home at the Williams Residence

In honor of the Carnival season, the home of THNOC’s founders will be decorated to celebrate the history of Mardis Gras in New Orleans. This limited exhibition will be open from January 10th to February 25th, offering guests a wonderful opportunity to see historic costume designs, crown jewels and invitations to celebrations from the mid-20th century. Visitors will be welcome to take their own self-guided tours and explore the house at their leisure without the need to pay for their experience.  For those interested in Mardi Gras, read our FAQ post on Carnival


New Orleans: The Founding Era

To commemorate the 300th anniversary of New Orlean’s founding, the Historic New Orleans Collection is hosting an exhibit which will tell the story of NOLA. More than 75 objects will be on loan from various organizations in Spain, France, Canada and the United States. As with some of their other exhibitions, you can expect them to provide audio/visual kiosks with additional information about the history of this city. THNOC will also provide a bilingual catalog that includes essays from several notable people. Admission is free and the gallery will be available from February 27th to May 27th of 2018.


Art of the City: Postmodern to Post-Katrina

This is set to be the inaugural exhibition for the Historic New Orleans Collection’s new Seignouret-Brulatour Building. Although this branch of the THNOC won’t officially open until the fall of 2018, they plan to display their programming schedule and other components outside of the gallery walls much earlier in the year. Art of the City will include the work of over 75 different artists, each telling their own story about the turmoil and resilience of this great city. Once this building is open, admission will be free for all visitors.

 


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FREE AND AFFORDABLE CONCERTS

In addition to their exhibitions, the Historic New Orleans Collection also hosts a number of concerts and musical performances from various artists. Most of these events will not be free, but they are very affordable. While some concerts are only offered once per year, others are available once a month. Genres range from New World to Jazz and honky-tonk, providing visitors with the opportunity to experience a plethora of different musical styles.  Don’t miss out on our guide to live music in New Orleans.


Concerts in the Courtyard

The Historical New Orleans Collection holds a monthly concert in their courtyard. Each concert welcomes musicians from Louisiana to share their performances with visitors. Although this event is not free, ticket prices are very low and THNOC members won’t have to pay for admission. Guests who attend these concerts are also welcome to complimentary drinks (either beer or white wine). Each performance runs for approximately 2 hours, giving you plenty of time to enjoy fantastic music from local artists.

  • Ticket Price: $10 per person | FREE for THNOC Members 
  • Concerts are held from 6 PM – 8 PM
  • Located at 533 Royal Street
  • Click here to see their calendar

Musical Louisiana: America’s Cultural Heritage

THNOC works with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra once a year to host this wonderful concert. This performance is great for music lovers, but it’s even better for educators of 5th and 8th-grade students who will receive packets including CDs, DVDs, and lesson plans. Although you are welcome to donate, payment is not required to see this concert in person. Those who donate at least $100 will receive a copy of the concert recording for their own personal use. The runtime for this event is approximately 90 minutes.

 


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PROFESSIONALLY GUIDED AND SELF-GUIDED TOURS

In addition to the many lectures, concerts, and exhibitions offered by THNOC, you can also enjoy either self-guided or professionally guided tours of their collection. Despite the fact that some of these tours are not free, they are still very affordable and definitely worth your consideration. The Historic New Orleans Collection also provides group tours for groups of more than 8 people and school field trips.

 

The Historic New Orleans Collection on Royal Street. Image Source: Wikimedia user Infrogmation on July 1st, 2009.


Daily Public Tours

The Historic New Orleans Collection offers two daily public tours led by professional docents. While one tour focuses on the Williams Residence (where some special events are held), the other is devoted to exploring the architecture and courtyard on display at the THNOC. Each walking tour offers visitors the opportunity to take a step back in time to experience the history of New Orleans and Louisiana through the eyes of their knowledgeable guide.

  • Ticket Price: $5 per person
  • Duration: 45 minutes
  • Availability: Daily
  • Hours: Tue-Sat at 10 AM, 11 AM, 2 PM & 3 PM
  • Extended Hours: Sun at 11 AM, 2 PM and 3 PM
  • Located at 533 Royal Street

Self-Guided Tours

If you’re interested in taking your own trip through the galleries at THNOC, they provide an 8-part self-guided tour that you can download on your smartphone for free. If you don’t feel like downloading the tour or you don’t have time, they have pre-loaded iPods available at the Historic New Orleans Collection. Alternatively, they also offer what they call a “cell phone tour” which will give you information about several notable locations on Royal and Toulouse Street.


Holiday Home and Courtyard Tour

Aside from their daily tours, The Historic New Orleans Collection also provides a holiday tour of the Williams Residence. During this tour, you’ll have the opportunity to see the house fully decorated for Christmas. As you walk through the house, a knowledgeable guide will describe the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years celebrations of the Williams family. The Holiday Home and Courtyard Tour is only available during the month of December.

  • Ticket Price: $5 per person
  • Duration: 45 minutes
  • Hours: Tue-Sat at 10 AM, 11 AM, 2 PM & 3 PM
  • Extended Hours: Sun at 11 AM, 2 PM and 3 PM
  • Located at 533 Royal Street
  • Availability: Dec 1st – Dec 30th

 


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