Do You Know What it Means is a collaborative, educational effort designed to help the public better understand what life was like in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina. Our mission is to collect the untold stories of the people of New Orleans by chronicling and preserving them in an accessible and public digital archive comprised of collected photographs, videos, family histories, interviews and other artifacts. The archive will result in a virtual representation of New Orleans that will in turn help bring a fractured community back together.

Do You Know What it Means places an emphasis on what has been lost and what has survived – from the objects that connect people between generations to the cultural and social fabric of everyday life – as a way of documenting and sharing the unique culture of New Orleans. Most important, the project and digital archive enable those whose lives were affected by this disaster to be proactive in rebuilding, preserving and sharing their family histories.

The first phase of this project focused on the Fazendeville group, a small community from New Orleans that has been displaced twice in its history. The first time was in 1964 when the National Park Service obtained their land, located directly on the Chalmette battlefield of the Battle of New Orleans. Some of the families in the group relocated to the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, which was devasted by the failure of the levees during Hurricane Katrina.

Today staff and volunteers of The Historic New Orleans Collection are working closely with local neighborhood associations, such as The Lakeview Civic Association and the Bywater Neighborhood Association and other groups to provide a more comprehensive view of the city’s unique neighborhoods and their social, cultural and racial diversity.