It’s only 13 blocks long and six blocks deep, but the French Quarter has countless stories. And now many of them are available with the click of a mouse.
The non-profit Vieux Carre Commission Foundation has launched the Vieux Carré Virtual Library, found at vieuxcarre.nola.gov, a new website that catalogs tens of thousands of images and documents for the nearly 4,000 structures in the city’s oldest and most famous neighborhood.
It’s a project that protects images and documents from being lost or damaged and allows property owners or government -- or the general public -- to more easily research the history of a specific building by clicking on it as part of an interactive map.
“The public is finally allowed to see many of the resources that come into play in preserving this historic district,” said Nicholas Musso, chairman of the city-run Vieux Carre Commission. “This is a viable living tool, which will continue to expand, and facilitate public participation in preserving and enlivening the future of the Vieux Carre.”
The web site has been in the works for nearly three years, said Brook Tesler, a preservationist who has been working to scan in photographic slides and documents.
Work began by scanning in 44,000 slides that date back to the 1960s, Tesler said. It’s the first time many of the images have been seen by the public since the VCC was organized in 1936.
The next step is scanning in thousand more images, Tesler said. “We're doing maybe 15,000 paper photographs now. Those are primarily from the 1940s and ’50s.”
Finally, the Vieux Carre Commission Foundation in the future will scan every typed and handwritten document in the property files, dating as far back as 1936. It will process them using Optical Character Recognition software, which makes making each document fully searchable online within the Virtual Library.