Plantations, Preservation, and Privilege

This is the first of a series of essays on items of historical interest related to New Orleans. I studied fine arts, and after moving to New Orleans studied historic preservation and architecture conservation. I interned with Save Our Cemeteries for a year learning masonry and conservation skills. I work now on historic masonry structures, mostly but not exclusively in cemeteries. I read and think a lot about history, and also have mixed feelings about the many different aspects of preservation work and how it can affect people and communities. My goal is basically to write an opinion column with historical interest.

Something that’s been in the news lately is the proposed removal of statues of confederate political figures, and I couldn’t help but compare it to other historical sites that I’ve visited and worked on in Louisiana. Romanticization of the confederate era is common here, not just with statues and street names, but just as blatantly with the plethora of plantations that are such a huge draw to visitors. As a student studying historic preservation, I visited a lot of these plantations. These trips were intended not as history lessons, but as tutorials in the many different ways historic properties can be treated, and what it will mean to visitors who may not have a historical background on the site.

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