MASQUERADE: THE TRADITIONS OF NEW ORLEANS MARDI GRAS ON VIEW AT THE LOUISIANA STATE ARCHIVES
Published 8:03 am Thursday, January 6, 2022
BATON ROUGE, La. – Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin and the Louisiana State Archives are pleased to announce the return of Mardi Gras with a major exhibition, Masquerade: The Traditions of New Orleans Mardi Gras, beginning in January 2022. The exhibit will officially open at the State Archives on Thursday, January 6th on Twelfth Night, the start of Carnival season. The exhibit will be on display Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. through April 14. Saturday exhibition days will be February 5, March 5, and April 2 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. In addition, the Friends of the Louisiana State Archives will be hosting a Spring Gala to highlight the exhibit on Sunday, March 6.
“Mardi Gras is a beloved tradition in our great state and known to so many around the world. As the official repository of the state’s historical records, the State Archives is well suited to present a historic showcase of the rich elements of Mardi Gras and its evolution over time. We are excited to bring in 2022 with an exhibition guaranteed to welcome the public back to the mysteries and fun of Carnival season,” said Louisiana State Archivist Catherine J. Newsome.
Masquerade: The Traditions of New Orleans Mardi Gras celebrates the evolution of Carnival in New Orleans along its lively timeline, from the mid-19th century to the present. The exhibit is presenting a vast collection of over 250 records and artifacts from private lenders, krewe members, tribal leadership, and cultural royalty together for the first time. Masquerade’s curator, Angi Cinquemano, describes this unique view as the “Mardi Gras multiverse.”
Displays include Carnival sculpture inspired by float designs, an art form recognized in a set of 1912 Carnival Bulletins. A collection of statues, models and sketches from Mardi Gras World’s founder, the late Blaine Kern Sr., inform the viewer of both traditional methods and robotic technology used in float building. The foundation for the exhibit, the previously unpublished Louisiana State Archives slide collection of Joseph Wright Reid, Jr., emphasizes the mirth and creativity of New Orleans street parades from the late 1950s and early 1960s. More unpublished images from the Archives include those of Black Masking Mardi Gras Indian elder Big Chief Lil’ Charles Taylor, representing the White Cloud Hunters tribe on a trip to Washington D.C. in 1985.
Jewelry, costuming, and ephemera demonstrate the theatrical nature of Carnival. Ducal medallions, early ball favors, and the iconic “Butterfly King” invitation celebrate Rex’s 150th anniversary. Jewelry includes a magnificent collection of 19th century Krewe of Proteus call-out pins.
The exhibit also includes original Zulu programs, and other African-American society publications complement photography of Louis Armstrong’s reign as the king of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club in 1947. Full costumes from Millisia White’s New Orleans Baby Doll Ladies include a dress worn by “the Original Baby Doll” Miriam Batiste-Reed and poke bonnets crafted by her brother, the late Lionel Batiste. Original suits and photography from the Guardians of the Flame Maroon Society represent members of multiple generations. The 200 year old Skeleton tradition is depicted in photographs of the North Side Skull and Bone Gang from the 1970s.
Early parade photographs show the Krewe of Iris, representing women parading, and the Krewe of Muses offers many of their signature throws and iconic shoes. Alternative walking groups such as the Krewe of Red Beans highlight crowdfunding projects in the beadwork of Jeremy Stevenson, second Big Chief of the Monogram Hunters.
The Louisiana State Archives is located at 3851 Essen Lane, Baton Rouge, LA 70809. Personal tours are available by request. For more information about the exhibit, follow the Louisiana Secretary of State on Instagram and Facebook @louisianasos, visit or call 225-922-1000.