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7 Under-the-Radar Museums in New Orleans

Go off the beaten path to learn unknown tidbits about Nola.

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Hi, I'm Yolanda!

Yolanda Evans is a freelance writer with more than 16 years of experience covering dining, cocktails, travel, and lifestyle. Her work has appeared in Afar, Here Magazine, Washington Post, Imbibe, Vine Pair, Shondaland, Zora, Food 52, Food & Wine, Punch, Travel + Leisure, Wine Enthusiast, Lonely Planet, Thrillist, Eater LA, and Architectural Digest to name but a few.

New Orleans is a unique destination known for its food, music, voodoo, and, of course, vibrant history. With its affordable attractions and easygoing vibes, it’s a great escape—after all, the city’s motto is “Laissez les bon temps rouler” (“Let the good times roll”). And there are good times to be had when exploring the city’s smaller, lesser-known museums, where you can learn a little quirky history, see local art, and even get a taste of cocktail culture. Here are seven under-the-radar museums you should check out during your next visit to the Crescent City.

1. Studio BE

Stage in warehouse set up to look like a bedroom with posters, dollhouse, desk, TV, and other items
Studio BE in the Bywater neighborhood showcases Black artists.Bildquelle: just1backpack / Tripadvisor

Explore Black culture via artwork.

Opened in the ever-so-hip Bywater neighborhood in 2016, Studio BE has turned a 35,000-square-foot (3,250-square-meter) warehouse into the city’s premier art gallery celebrating Black culture. Founded by artist and activist Brandan “BMike” Odums, who gained fame for his murals documenting the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the space displays many of his past works along with new exhibits focusing on Black history and activism. And, you can take a piece of the gallery home with you after a quick pit stop at the gift shop, which sells original prints.

Don’t miss: Odums’ famous floor-to-ceiling portraits.

2. Le Musée de f.p.c (the Free People of Color Museum)

Interpretive plaque outside Le Musée de f.p.c (the Free People of Color Museum)
Tours of Le Musée de f.p.c (the Free People of Color Museum) are by appointment only.Bildquelle: Pam W / Tripadvisor

Learn about the daily life of free people of color in NOLA.

Before the Civil War, New Orleans had the largest population of free Black people in the South. Striving for a better life while facing hardship, they built communities that greatly enriched the city with food, music, and other cultural treasures. Le Musée de f.p.c. (the Free People of Color Museum) is one of the few places in America dedicated to preserving the history and culture of the free people of color who lived in NOLA during this time period. Opened in 2019 in Tremé, the museum offers tours by appointment only. The tours are led by the Black community theater company No Dream Deferred, and guides adopt the personas of real individuals who shaped the city.

Don’t miss: A chance to book a night or two at the museum’s guest house.

3. Backstreet Cultural Museum

Colorful and elaborately decorated Mardi Gras costumes displayed in a room
The Backstreet Cultural Museum displays Mardi Gras costumes and memorabilia.Bildquelle: Reen_Depo / Tripadvisor

The home of Black Mardi Gras.

Also located in Tremé, the oldest Black neighborhood in America, the Backstreet Cultural Museum is a must-visit if you wish to learn about the area and the famous Mardi Gras Indians. Opened in 1999 by Sylvester Francis, this house is devoted to costumes (including those of the Baby Dolls and Skull and Bones Gang) and memorabilia, with items reflecting the history of jazz funerals, social aid, and pleasure clubs. Not only is the museum a treasure trove of photographs and prized objects, but the space also hosts public performances and has an outreach program for the community.

Don’t miss: A tour of the extensive collection of Mardi Gras Indian regalia.

4. Irish Cultural Museum

Sun shines on a beige building with green shutters
The café at the Irish Cultural Museum offers coffee and whiskey.Bildquelle: Irish Cultural Museum / Tripadvisor

A hidden gem of Irish history.

When you think of New Orleans, you may not think of Irish culture. But, in fact, you should, as NOLA welcomed many immigrants from Ireland—leading one parish to be dubbed The Irish Channel. The Irish Cultural Museum tells the stories of the Irish in New Orleans via a few kiosks and a room showcasing the award-winning documentary Irish New Orleans.

Don’t miss: Once you’re done learning a little Irish history, sit in the café with a cup of coffee or an Irish whiskey.

5. New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

Bust of a jester in the display window of the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum collection includes hundreds of artifacts.Bildquelle: DimplePatel / Shutterstock

Just what the doctor ordered.

Once the home of Louis Dufilho, Jr., America’s first licensed pharmacist, this former apothecary is now dedicated to showcasing the history of medicine and pharmaceuticals in the 19th century. While it’s only two floors, the museum displays hundreds of artifacts including apothecary bottles, voodoo potions, alcohol, surgical instruments, and a reconstruction of a 19th-century pharmacists’ work area, set up to dole out remedies for people’s ailments.

Don’t miss: Pop into the reading room to check out old pharmacists' recipe books, prescriptions from the era, and vintage posters.

6. Museum of Death

Painted and lighted signage on the museum doors and in the windows
The Museum of Death exhibits are wide-ranging, from true crime to cannibalism.Bildquelle: MannaLynn / Tripadvisor

Satisfy your morbid curiosity.

For true crime fans and others who gravitate to the macabre, the Museum of Death is just the place. Established by J. D. Healy and Catherine Shultz in June 1995, this French Quarter museum is not for the squeamish, as visitors can view coffins and skulls and learn about cannibalism. There are also items from famous murder cases and killers, as well as other curiosities awaiting those who dare to venture inside.

Don’t miss: While the main draw might be the displays related to notorious murders, there are a few shrunken heads not to be overlooked at the end.

7. Museum of the American Cocktail

Vintage signage and photo, liquor bottles, and glassware on display shelves
The cocktail museum is located inside the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.Bildquelle: gourmetvinotraveler / Tripadvisor

A drinkable history.

While many visitors may have heard of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, they might not know that within this space is a museum dedicated to American cocktails. Founded by cocktail pioneer Dale DeGroff and a group of prominent mixologists, the Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC) was once a traveling exhibit, until it found its permanent spot in NOLA. Its purpose is to pay homage to the evolution of the cocktail and its cultural significance in America; the museum also aims to expand people’s knowledge of mixology through seminars and tasting events.

Don’t miss: The collection of rare cocktail books and recipes includes some dating back to pre-Prohibition.

More ways to explore New Orleans

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