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City Archives & Special Collections: Celebrating 75 Years at the Library

Christina Bryant

Christina Bryant

Christina is the director of the New Orleans Public Library's City Archives & Special Collections.

To celebrate the 75th Anniversary of New Orleans’ City Archives at the New Orleans Public Library, staff created an exhibit to feature the contributions of nine City Agencies to the collections held at the City Archives. Each exhibit will show the historically significant, impactful, and interesting materials the agencies have transferred to the Archives.

History of the City Archives & Special Collections:

During the organization of New Orleans’ government in the 1770s, it was ordered that any and all created rules and regulations were to be kept managed by what would become the City Archives & Special Collections.

By 1871, there was an appointed “keeper of the City Archives,” whose duty was to “allow no book, paper or archives of any kind to be taken” out of the Archives.  In 1937, the records were removed from Gallier Hall –– the City Hall of the time –– to the Annex next door on Howard Avenue. In 1946, the records were officially transferred into the care of the New Orleans Public Library by Ordinance 16,6647 CCS. The placement was further defined in the 1954 Home Rule Charter. In the early 1960s, the records were transferred to the new Main Library on Loyola Avenue. 

Stop by the first floor of Main Library for a glimpse into all nine agencies. Visit the third floor for a more in-depth look at a rotation of featured agencies. The main exhibition showcases a larger range of materials and provides insight into how these municipal entities have played a role in the city. The City Planning Commission is currently on display.

Using records, photographs, three-dimensional objects, and ephemera, we’re telling the story of how these agencies have interacted with the City, helped to shape its past, and their role in government.  

The nine agencies included in the exhibit are listed below, with a brief explanation of the individual exhibit and some materials to be included.

City Planning Commission:

The City Planning Commission works with the City Council and other agencies to develop master plan amendments, map changes, and text amendments to the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO). 

The exhibit highlights how the commission’s work shaped New Orleans and laid the foundation for future growth. It also combines multiple types of documents to show the breadth of the work that the commission does. Zoning maps, printed materials, and brochures from throughout the history of the city will be displayed. 

City Council

This exhibit features important ordinances, early City Council records, and demonstrations of ways in which the citizens interact with their government, as well as the impact City Council’s decisions have had on citizens and other government levels. 

The New Orleans City Council has existed in different forms with its roots beginning in the Colonial Period, and the Archives house records that date back to 1769. 

City of New Orleans Division of Cemeteries

Six municipal cemeteries are under the management of the cemeteries division: 

  • Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 
  • Lafayette Cemetery No. 2 
  • Carrollton Cemetery No. 1 –– also known as Green Street Cemetery 
  • Carrollton Cemetery No. 2 –– also known as St. Mary’s Cemetery 
  • Valence Cemetery 
  • Holt Cemetery  

These cemeteries and their records hold invaluable information about the residents of our city. This exhibit highlights some of these cemeteries and show ways in which the records can be used, and display images and original internment records. 

Cemeteries Exhibit

Department of Public Works

Responsible for maintaining streets, bridges, and other projects, the Department Public Works has deep roots in New Orleans’ infrastructure. 

This exhibit explores some older DPW materials, including photos, maps, and plans. It highlights streets, bridges and land that have existed in the past, but that may not currently occupy that location. 

Department of Public Works Exhibit

New Orleans Aviation Board

The aviation board oversees the administration, operation, and maintenance of the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. Through this exhibit, visitors will learn how this agency has grown into the world-class facility it is today. 

Featuring images, reports, flyers and printed materials, the exhibit explores the ways in which the airport plays an essential role in the tourism and business industry of New Orleans.


New Orleans Fire Department

With a long history of dedication to the city of New Orleans dating back to 1891, the New Orleans Fire Department came into existence when firefighters began to be paid for their work. 

The records of the Fire Department are important because they tell us about the history of the department, as well as shed light on the history of New Orleans.

This exhibit links NOFD records like day books and reports to photographs, newspaper articles and printed materials. It also features some artifacts and other objects.

NOFD Exhibit

New Orleans Police Department

The Archives’ NOPD exhibit looks at the beginnings and development of the department through photographs, records and artifacts that demonstrate many of the ways in which the department functions.

 Visitors will also see different aspects of the NOPD, including the men and women that worked both in the field and behind the scenes.

NOPD Exhibit

The Sewerage and Water Board

The Sewerage and Water Board exhibit features reports, records, and images illustrating how the agency helped to form New Orleans and create our present drainage system, as well as explaining the origins of the agency and link to their current operations. 

The exhibit also displays some newly acquired watercolor plans and other records. 

Sewerage and Water Board Exhibit

Vieux Carre’ Commission

As part of its mission, the Vieux Carre’ Commission protects, preserves, and maintains the distinct architectural and historic character of the Vieux Carré, the French Quarter’s traditional name. 

The exhibit focuses on the creation of the agency, its regulations, and the role it plays in preserving our architectural heritage, featuring brochures, flyers, records and slides. 

Vieux Carre Exhibit

The Archives staff would like to thank all the City Employees who have worked with the City Archives & Special Collections to ensure that these invaluable resources are preserved. 

In celebration of American Archives Month, which is in October, there will be special programming and on-site visits relating to the exhibit. Keep an eye out for additional information.  

The exhibit was designed by City Archives & Special Collects staff: Amanda Fallis, Andrew Mullins, Brittanny Silva and Christina Bryant.


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