New Orleans 33 Years Ago

Today is the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s assault on the city of New Orleans. Of late there have been a lot of news stories about the city’s recovery, or lack of recovery, since those devastating weeks. Over the past several years here at the Center for History and New Media and through the efforts of many partners (especially at the University of New Orleans) we have been collecting the stories, images, audio files, and other digital records of what happened along the Gulf Coast five years ago tomorrow in the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been to New Orleans over the years — to visit family, for Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, St. Patrick’s Day, and various conferences. But I think the best images I took were in June 1977 when I was there hanging out with my cousin Pat just after I graduated from high school.

In those days I was working hard at becoming a better photographer and I took many rolls of Kodak Plus-X and Tri-X film. I lost track of the negatives long ago, but after my parents died last year I found them in the boxes filled with all the negatives from their long careers as pretty serious amateur photographers.

I’ve finally gotten around to scanning selections from those images and posting them in Flickr (and in the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank). As you think about what happened in New Orleans this week, take a moment to look back at the city 33 years ago when Category 5 hurricanes were just one of those things people across the city did their best to not think about.

I’m pleased to say that the HDMB now includes almost 1,400 personal narratives and almost 14,000 images related to the hurricane season of 2005.