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About this collection

The New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD) created seven scrapbook of photographs documenting the work of its first two years, 1947 and 1948. They were transferred to the City Archives in 1999 with the help of NORD staff member Benny Jefferson. The scrapbooks originally had the following titles:

  • Photographic Record of Colored Activities
  • Photographic Record of Maintenance (3 volumes)
  • Photographic Record of Arts and Crafts
  • Photographic Record of Athletics (2 volumes)

 

Depicted in the collection are the activities of both the African American and Caucasian facilities of NORD, including activities such as sports, theater, tournaments, play, and more.

 

By the time the scrapbooks were transferred to the City Archives, however, they had largely lost their identity due to detached covers and loose pages. Archives staff chose to inventory the photographs individually, arranged more or less in the order in which they were received from NORD. The photographs were numbered consecutively and inventoried using captions on the scrapbook pages when available. They remain attached to the original scrapbook pages and are filed in two large boxes.

 

Historical Note 

 

NORD was established in 1946 per the direction of Mayor deLesseps S. “Chep” Morrison’s. In 1946, New Orleans was a strictly segregated city, and NORD had separate facilities and programs for black and white. While the city did add playgrounds, swimming pools, recreational complexes, ball fields and other new facilities for African American citizens, neither the number nor the quality equaled those built for the white population. Some of the photographs reflect this disparity.

 

At the time, the program was acclaimed as a model for the rest of the country. Life magazine published a pictorial study of the Department in 1949, writing that the New Orleans program was “the most progressive in the U.S.” Also per Life, “NORD built 58 new play centers and eight swimming pools. It used whatever facilities it could, including a firehouse, public meat markets and two abandoned city jails.”

 

Over the next several decades, the Recreation Department and other public institutions fell into steep decline. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina nearly ended the NORD system entirely. But in October 2010, New Orleanians voted to ammend the Home Rule Charter to reinvent NORD as the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission, a public-private partnership designed to manage the city's recreation program.

 

This historical note is adapted from the Louisiana Division's digital exhibit of images from this photograph collection: A Place to Play: the first years of NORD.

 

 

 

 
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