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Published: August 9th 2007
The St. Louis Cathedral
Looking down Chartres Street
I am planning to apply to grad school for the Fall 2008 semester. Applying is a long, drawn out process. It is a lot different than applying for your undergrad because the competition is extreme. There are far more hopefuls than can be accepted in many respectable anthropology programs in the country. I plan to focus on historical archaeology and historical preservation. Our most cherished cities are the ones that have managed to preserve their history and maintain their connection to the past. That is a testament to the importance of preservation issues to local people, and it's an issue that will become important in the 21st century as cities become more crowded and developed.
So far, my list of universities includes Tulane University, the University of New Orleans, Texas Tech, and the University of Chicago.
Why New Orleans?
She had understood before she had ever dreamed of a city such as this, where every texture, every color, leapt out at you, where every fragrance was a drug, and the air itself was something alive and breathing. -Anne Rice, The Witching Hour
There are only a handful of cities in the world that can claim a fiercely loyal sense of community, and are known for inspiring artists, poets, and musicians alike because of its inherent intrigue. There are also few cities that, when spoken of, is personified as if it were a living, breathing entity with heart and soul.
The Lafayette Cemetery No. 1
It used to be customary for families of the deceased to picnic near their loved one's tomb.
Paris comes to mind, as does New York and Venice. And then there is New Orleans. Over the course of its 300 year history as a city, the outpouring of affection from those whom she has touched has been nearly as vehement as the criticism from those who fear her infamous complications, such as crime, poverty, corruption, and perceived deviance. Yes, New Orleans has had to build from the ground up several times after hurricanes and fires have decimated the city, and more than one critic has used morality as a reason for not rebuilding the city. This did not change after Katrina.
I fell in love with the city during a short visit in October of 2004 and I never really left it behind. In New Orleans, I feel alive instead of feeling as if I am wasting away in suburbia. I love the nice touristy areas just as much as the gritty parts that most tourists try to stay away from. I love it in spite of its problems, or maybe even because of them. The city certainly wouldn't be the same without them. All around you in New Orleans, from its above-ground cemeteries to its voodoo
The St. Louis No. 1
with the Iberville Projects in the background.
shops, there are reminders of the dead. Its highly visible cemeteries are often referred to as Cities of the Dead, a place where one can go and be among relatives and ancestors once again. This presence serves to remind New Orleanians that life is meant to be cherished and enjoyed. To slow down and enjoy the sensual, simple pleasures of life. It's unique food, music, architecture, history, and culture cannot be reproduced anywhere else on the globe, regardless of how much Walt Disney would like to try!
During the last semester of my undergrad program, I chose to do an independent study project on historical preservation in New Orleans. As my advisor warned me that many overzealous and ambitious undergrads are prone to do, I underestimated the scale of the project I was undertaking. I was very proud of my final product, however, and the research I conducted confirmed that historic preservation and historical archaeology is the correct path for me.
For the project, I recorded the status for approximately 85%!o(MISSING)f sites in New Orleans that are listed on the National Historic Register. I provided an overall assessment of historic preservation in New Orleans in
My niece and me
A baby on Bourbon Street?! Sure, why not!
the post-Katrina era based on research and interviews with preservation officials and local residents. I met some interesting people in the process. One man in Esplanade Ridge told me about how, after Katrina, he finally got up the courage to walk out of his house on the fourth day after being trapped by the floodwaters. He vividly recalls that as he waded through the streets he couldn't tell the tree trunks from dead bodies. An elderly woman in the Treme told me that she took refuge at a French Quarter hotel during the storm, but when that flooded her group was forced to move to the chaos that was the Superdome. I also met with a curator at the Lousiana State Museum who gave me some wonderful information and was gracious enough to talk to me for a few hours and even give a personal tour of a temporarily closed museum. During all the interviews, one thing I noticed was that it seemed everyone was more than willing to tell how their family or friends were rescued from the city that week, but they would not talk about how they personally were evacuated when that day finally came. My impression
Cast Iron Hitching Posts
It's the details that give the Quarter such charm
was that their rescue was still too sensitive and raw to discuss with strangers approaching them for information.
Still work to be done
My last visit to New Orleans was in March of 2007. If you simply stay in the French Quarter and the other touristy areas, you wouldn't really know anything happened. It's when you get outside of the Quarter that you can see that there is still a lot of work to be done. Even in the Garden District there are many businesses that have closed down because the owners either have not returned or they were forced to close because of financial issues after Katrina. In the residential neighborhoods we saw a lot of the destruction that still lingers in the city. Even in the nice areas where the houses go for 200,000 to 300,000 there were abandoned homes, mold growing up the sides of the houses (because the owners are still gone, dead, or too elderly to care for it), and FEMA search & rescue paint on the front.
Throughout all of the interviews I did and through talking to people, the most consistent theme I heard was that community is what is holding
Damage in the Treme
Parts of the Treme are still suffering considerably
New Orleans together. Many people have yet to see any money from the Road Home program, so they are forced to rely on their own resources. The Road Home money is beginning to trickle in but, two years after the fact, it may be too late for some who have already lost their homes or had to move to other cities due to the housing shortage. Community has always been what makes New Orleans distinct and special, and in the Post-Katrina era it is vital to the long term health of the city.
My role will hopefully be to get my doctorate and help New Orleans preserve its past. Even if I do not go to Tulane and I end up in another city, I would still like to focus on this region for my doctoral work. There aren't a lot of archaeologists focused on Nola, so I may have to broaden my study area for grad school, but many archaeologists have a variety of regions that they specialize in. Many also live in cities other than the ones they primarily study. One researcher I am interested in is a New Orleans archaeologist but she teaches and lives at
An elderly woman's home in Esplanade Ridge. A disability on her hand prevents her from painting over the FEMA markings
the University of Chicago! A perfectly New Orleans moment...
In October of 2007, my husband and I went with my mom, sister, and my 8 month old neice, Meagan, to New Orleans. Meagan was very good on the trip. She is a born traveler, like her aunt. I was really nervous about my mom and my sister feeling comfortable and liking New Orleans, and I really wanted them to have a good time. A moment at the Commander's Palace took care of that. The Commander's Palace restaurant is an institution in New Orleans, and has been for at least a century. We went for the classic Jazz brunch, where you eat a three course meal and listen to a live jazz band. The singer sounded exactly like Louie B. Armstrong, and when he began singing 'St. James Infirmary,' the room was mesmerized. This is a sad song about a man who is viewing his loved one's dead body, but it is delivered in such a fashion that it causes you to tap your feet and you can't help but smile. Good food, good music, and a touch of the macabre... it was a classic New Orleans moment!
Houses in the Uptown district
From October 2006 to March 2007, there were a lot of signs of improvement in this area as people began to trickle back to their homes
you can help Operation Helping Hands Nola Hurricane Fund
Visit! In the areas you are most likely to visit as a tourist (French Quarter and Garden District) New Orleans is as safe as it was before. You can help support the local economy directly by spending your next vacation in New Orleans.
Laissez le bon temps rouler!
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