New Orleans Travel Diary

After hanging out in Atlanta for a few days over spring break, Natalie and I spent a few days in New Orleans.

We documented some of our favorite moments of the trips to share with you, but there is one place that I left out that I couldn’t not mention.

Backstreet Cultural Museum


My visit to the Backstreet Cultural Museum showed me that “museum” is a pretty broad term.

Natalie and I visited this place on our last day in New Orleans. We had already been to the Pharmacy Museum and the Voodoo Museum, but I think this place, however small and unconventional it might have been, captivated me the most.

Our Airbnb host Simon recommended it, saying something to the tune of, it’s like no other. And he was right.

When we first arrived, I didn’t really know what exactly I was walking into. The museum comprised a house, with a group of people gathered in one of the rooms, surrounding an old black man who was saying something.

But I was caught off guard by the rows of massive, fabulously colorful costumes lining the walls, towering over us with bright feathers, headdresses and accents.

The Backstreet Cultural Museum walks you through this community of people that celebrates life, even in death. It’s hosted by Sylvester Francis, a community cameraman of sorts, who has spent most of his life capturing African American art and culture.

He documents parades and jazz festivals, but he also documents funerals. One of his most striking comments was when he talked about a case of old t-shirts on display in the middle of the room, telling a story about funerals, referring to birth and death as sunrise and sunset.

I appreciated that this museum was homey and authentic, because the content and exhibits would not have been as easily understood if the museum were a cold, stiff formal museum.

There were SO MANY interesting things in it. Just reading through newspaper clippings hung up on the walls in the hallway made me feel awestruck. He had been profiled in newspapers and publications through the years. He also proudly displayed letters and certificates of recognition from everywhere including the White House!

A few lessons learned:

  1. Bring lots of cash – ATMs charge heavy fees and a lot of places either only take cash, require a minimum, or charge an additional fee for cards.
  2. Don’t rely on public transit – it’s not that efficient, though the street cars are fun to ride.
  3. None of the locals are on Bourbon Street – Frenchmen Street is where it’s at. Sure, Bourbon is full of noise and people and lights and cheap drinks, but Frenchmen Street is where the music gets soulful, and the local culture saturates the area. More about these two later.
  4. Listen to local suggestions – we never would have experienced some of the most memorable parts of our trip if it weren’t for our lovely AirBnB host Simon.
  5. AirBnb is an interesting concept – there’s a lot of risk associated but the review system helps keep things running smoothly for the most part.


  1. Pingback: The art of solicitation | Catherine Zhang

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