Ran beloved mu­seum in New Or­leans


NEW OR­LEANS — Sylvester Fran­cis, the founder of the small but highly re­spected Back­street Cul­tural Mu­seum that fea­tures an ar­ray of ex­hibits from var­i­ous as­pects of African Amer­i­can cul­ture in New Or­leans neigh­bor­hoods, died Tues­day at age 73.

Bruce “Sun­pie” Barnes, a mu­si­cian and a mu­seum board mem­ber, said Mr. Fran­cis, nick­named “Hawk,” died Tues­day morn­ing af­ter suf­fer­ing from ap­pen­dici­tis and other ail­ments. Barnes was or­ga­niz­ing a mu­si­cal trib­ute to Mr. Fran­cis on Tues­day evening out­side the mu­seum in New Or­leans’ Treme neigh­bor­hood.

“We can thank ‘Hawk’ for main­tain­ing the pho­to­graphs, the cos­tumes, the films, the mem­o­ra­bilia, and the ar­ti­facts of New Or­leans street cul­ture, right in the heart of his beloved Treme neigh­bor­hood,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a state­ment. “Our thoughts go out to his fam­ily. May he rest in God’s per­fect peace.”

Mr. Fran­cis founded the Back­street Cul­tural Mu­seum in 1999. Ac­cord­ing to the mu­seum’s web­site, its roots go back decades be­fore. Mr. Fran­cis had been chron­i­cling as­pects of neigh­bor­hood cul­ture on film for many years and, in the 1980s, was dis­play­ing pho­tos and Mardi Gras In­dian mem­o­ra­bilia in his two-car garage in Treme.

He was en­cour­aged by a lo­cal fu­neral home owner to start the mu­seum in a closed fu­neral home in Treme. Mr. Fran­cis drew wide­spread ac­claim and sup­port from, among oth­ers, of the or­ga­niz­ers of the an­nual New Or­leans Jazz and Her­itage Fes­ti­val and the Og­den Mu­seum of South­ern Art. Sylvester Fran­cis founded the Back­street Cul­tural Mu­seum in 1999.

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