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.