shadow_tr

Mardi Gras Artifacts Inspire Designers


This watercolor of an 1885 float design from the Proteus parade is from Tulane’s Special Collection Division, which has one of the world’s larger collections of printed Carnival memorabilia.

Academics and float designers alike find inspiration in a treasure trove of Mardi Gras memorabilia nestled on the second floor of Jones Hall on Tulane’s uptown campus.

The Carnival Collection is part of the Special Collections Division and houses printed Carnival mementoes, including many original drawings of costumes and parade float designs.

While float and costume designers use the collection to explore ideas for their next Carnival creations, manuscripts librarian Leon Miller says that academic research is also a major use for the archive.

“Academic researchers from many fields use the collection for a tremendous variety of research projects,” says Miller. “English literature specialists have traced how the designs reflect ways different cultural concepts filtered through society, and political scientists have studied how float designs reflect changing political factions.”

There is also an online exhibit available for a peek into what the collection contains.

“We have one of the larger collections of Carnival ephemera in the world,” says Miller. “Ephemera are small printed items meant to be read or used and then tossed away, such as brochures, flyers and invitations. Our collection of Carnival ephemera extends back to the 1850s and continues to the present, as we document new Carnival events every year.”

Mary LeBlanc knows her way around the collection. As a library staff member for more than 30 years, LeBlanc is now a volunteer in the Special Collections Division where she works exclusively with the Carnival collection.


This drawing shows a proposed costume for a “rainbow sprite,” part of the Tulane archive of Carnival history dating back to the 1850s.



“The Carnival collection is a work in progress,” she says. “It has importance to both New Orleans history and American history.”

According to Miller, the library is accepting new donations to add to the Carnival collection.

“If someone attends a ball, has a Carnival invitation collection or kept minutes, newsletters or other records from a krewe, we hope they will remember to save their invitations, place cards and dance cards and donate them to us,” says Miller.

The collection’s librarians suggest that anyone planning to visit should call ahead and first review the guest guidelines.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu