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THNOC acquires archive of noted photojournalist Harold F. Baquet

Loyola press release - June 16, 2016

Decades of African-American culture to be preserved at French Quarter repository

The Historic New Orleans Collection announced yesterday that the archive of photographer Harold F. Baquet (1958–2015) will be permanently housed at THNOC’s Williams Research Center. The announcement was made with the support of Cheron Brylski, Baquet’s widow, who has retained the archive since his death one year ago on June 18, 2015. The acquisition was approved Tuesday, May 10.

An advocate for the black community, Baquet captured local African-American life from the streets of the Seventh Ward to the corridors of City Hall. The seventh-generation New Orleanian graduated from St. Augustine High School and worked as an electrician before pursuing his childhood dream of photography. After working for numerous news outlets, Baquet photographed the administrations of Mayor Ernest N. Morial (1978–1986) and his successor, Sidney Barthelemy (1986–1994). In 1989, he accepted a job at Loyola University New Orleans as campus photographer and served there for more than 25 years, earning numerous honors.

“Much of Harold Baquet’s work covers time periods and subjects not overly represented in our collections, including African-American life in the last quarter of the 20th century,” said John. H. Lawrence, director of museum programs at THNOC. “It coincides chronologically with some other collections we have, but it’s a view of the city through different eyes.”

The archive—which includes thousands of slides, negatives, contact sheets, prints and ephemera—is the institution’s first photographic collection by a black photographer.

“Although THNOC holds examples of works by historically important African-American photographers, including Arthur P. Bedou, Villard Paddio and Florestine Perrault Collins, nothing compares in scale and scope to Baquet’s archive,” said Lawrence, who also serves as a photography historian and curator. “There is still much to learn about the individual photographers and studios who chronicled African-American life in New Orleans since Jules Lion, a French-born free man of color, introduced the medium to New Orleans in 1840.”

The Harold F. Baquet Archive joins the archive of Michael P. Smith, the Charles L. Franck Studio Collection, the Jules Cahn Collection, the Clarence John Laughlin Archive and numerous other photography collections housed at the institution.

Given its sheer scope and subject matter, however, Baquet’s archive is unique. His is one of the few comprehensive and surviving collections by an African-American depicting daily life in New Orleans housing developments, including the Desire-Florida, Lafitte, Magnolia and St. Thomas projects, as well as the Versailles Arms Apartments in New Orleans East, where Vietnamese refugees were resettled in the 1980s.

“Harold considered The Historic New Orleans Collection as the rightful home for his photographs and artwork because he wanted to expand The Collection’s full picture of New Orleans life, especially the valuable contributions of black families, civic leaders and working men and women to our community,” said Brylski.

A native New Orleanian, Baquet also captured the city’s music and cultural scene, including the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Black Heritage Festival, Mardi Gras, as well as daily life in the French Quarter.

THNOC will be the only institution with the photographer’s comprehensive archive. Additional Baquet material is already retained by the New Orleans Public Library’s municipal division and Loyola University’s campus library, the J. Edgar and Louise S. Monroe Library. The materials associated with this collection are vast. For this reason, items from the donation will become available to the public as they are processed; to check their availability, contact THNOC’s reading room staff at (504) 523-4662 or wrc@hnoc.org.

To learn more, media may contact Eli A. Haddow at The Historic New Orleans Collection at (504) 556-7603 or Cheron Brylski, Harold F. Baquet Archives at (504) 897-6110 or cbrylski@aol.com.

About The Historic New Orleans Collection

Founded in 1966, The Historic New Orleans Collection is a museum, research center and publisher dedicated to the study and preservation of the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. For more information, visit www.hnoc.org or call (504) 523-4662.