T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History
History seems to know a lot about south Louisiana sounds and tastes through jazz, Mardi Gras, and great food. But, what does it look like in terms of visual culture?

Meet the fathers and daughters of local pop culture. If you watched the TV show, “Mad Men” this project preserved the real thing.

Background: This exhibit is the culmination of a project that documents and preserves the history of local graphic design (also known as commercial art) through the models of two professional organizations in south Louisiana–AIGA New Orleans Chapter and its origins in ADDA. The Art Directors and Designers Association of New Orleans (ADDA) was founded in 1961. Eventually, it became a local chapter of the national professional organization for design (AIGA). AIGA New Orleans Chapter was chartered in 1999. Don Smith, an early ADDA president, had kept an original audio/visual presentation about the parent organization, its members, and talents. It was created in 1961. Ca. 2006, AIGA Special Projects Director, Nancy Sharon Collins, acquired the slideshow from Smith. The presentation comprises over one hundred 35mm slides in two “carousels” and two boxes of reel-to-reel audiotape.* Using these visually rich and culturally vital materials as a base, the purpose of this project was to collect, document, preserve and make publicly available the great heritage of commercial art in this region. The project was officially completed in late 2019.

The Project:
  • The project goal was to identify, save, and protect intellectual and physical artifacts of early graphic design ephemera and media. That includes the restored and digitally re-mastered, 30-minute, 1961 ADDA slide show.
  • The HGD-SL website was launched in 2009, updated in 2011, and terminated ca. 2017.
  • The project captured fifteen oral histories from members of the south Louisiana graphic arts community. Partners included The T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History at LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, The American Printing History Association Oral History Project, and Loyola University New Orleans students and faculty.
  • The oral histories are housed with the LSU Libraries T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History and the interviews are part of the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. To inquire about access to the collections, please contact the director at the T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History.
  • In 2013, the physical artifacts of local graphic design visual culture were donated to Loyola University New Orleans Special Collections and Archives.
  • In 2016, PRINT, the historically influential graphic design magazine published an article on the project that included the re-mastered ADDA slide show.
* The final episode of Mad Men nostalgically features Kodak and their 35mm slide carousel technology.

Acknowledgements: The content for the listening station was curated by stationer Nancy Sharon Collins. All collections are housed in the T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History and available to researchers. Oversight and content contributions by Jennifer A. Cramer, Director, T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History. Special thanks to Center staff Teresa Bergen, Dale Rhodies, and Allison Powell for assistance. The gallery and online listening station interface was designed and installed by Kyle Tanglao, User Interface Designer, Technology Initiatives, LSU Libraries. The project was made possible by AIGA Katrina Relief Grant program, AIGA New Orleans, Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation, The T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History, and Loyola University New Orleans Special Collections and Archives. Special thanks to Paul Gruber, Metropolitan Opera Guild Inc., New York City, Seth B. Winner Sound Studios, Inc., Merrick, New York, and Rob Hudak, New Orleans. Additional thanks go to the History of Graphic Design in South Louisiana project’s post-Katrina advisory board, co-chair, committee members, and friends: The late William Drenttel, Stewart Becnel, Brianna George, Christie Hackenburg, Jessica Helfand, Steven Heller, Kathleen Joffrion, Amie Leicher, Daniela Marx, Wes McWhorter, Michelle Neuhoff, Lacy Picou, Elaine Smythe, Tom Varisco, Trish Nugent, Elizabeth Kelly, “L” (Lízbeth) Romero and Joshua Matthews, Kure Croker, Elizabeth Kelly, and Adam Newman.
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