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City Archives & Special Collections Manuscripts to Explore this Summer



Amy is a librarian in the City Archives & Special Collections department of the New Orleans Public Library.

The City Archives & Special Collections are responsible for maintaining and preserving the records of the City of New Orleans. They also hold a variety of special collections collected by staff or donated by the public over the years, including illustrating what it was like to explore and travel from (or to) Louisiana in -past decades –– or even centuries. With summer right around the corner, here are a few manuscripts perfect for satisfying your inner armchair traveler:

1. Travel Map Collection (SC-220-MS)

Maps are a quintessential part of the traditional American Road Trip. In an era before GPS or even digital route-finders, people relied on paper maps to navigate. 

This collection of maps dates from 1938-2000. There are maps of the whole state, as well as of the City of New Orleans. Maps were published by all different agencies, from tourism boards to gas stations to the Regional Transit Authority.

While we wouldn’t recommend using these maps to plan your next road trip, it’s fun to see what has changed over time. 

2. Thomas Smith Richards papers (SC-20-MS)

 Would you rather read about someone else’s adventures? Thomas Smith Richard kept a diary of his travels from Philadelphia to Mobile, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana in the 1830s.

According to the family, Richards was traveling both as an agent of the family bog-iron business and as treatment for his tuberculosis. As such, he provided extensive commentary on the latter two cities in his diary – considering social, political, and economic matters that he thought were important.

He also commented in great detail about the weather and how it impacted his visit.

3. Frances Edith Libby papers (SC-23-MS)

Are you more interested in international travel? 

Frances Edith Libby sailed from New Orleans to Liverpool, before exploring England, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium, Holland, and Germany. She recorded her adventures in a diary as she traveled around Europe in 1896. 

Frances discussed the weather as well as the people that she and her travelling companions met along the way.

4. New Orleans Music Awards, Inc. records (SC-155-MS)

If music and festivals are your signal that summer is here, then groove out by learning more about this local award ceremony, intended to boost the New Orleans music scene. Our collection focuses on the 1986 ceremony, and includes correspondence, programs, and newspaper clippings about the award show held at the Saenger Theatre. See how many of the nominees you recognize, or learn who was excited to work with the New Orleans Music Awards, and who questioned its viability.

5. New Orleans Bicycle Club minutes (SC-198-MS)

Bicycles remain a popular form of transportation in cities like New Orleans. The New Orleans Bicycle club operated from 1892-1895. Their minutes highlight issues like road conditions, which are still of concern to bicyclists today. Review the hand-written minutes and find out what happened to this short-lived club, as well as who the Pelican Cyclists were.

Want to Learn More?

In addition to the Manuscript Collection (which features approximately 300 manuscripts), there are over 200 Special Collections available to view by registered researchers. Materials in City Archives & Special Collections may be viewed by appointment Monday-Friday. Please call 504.596.2610 or email to schedule an appointment. 

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