New Orleans 1867

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Public relations may be an art to some people, but its materials don't often end up in museums or thick coffeetable books.

Here's a remarkable exception.

In one of the first publicly funded municipal promotional efforts, the city of New Orleans commissioned photographer Theodore Lilienthal to survey the city and send the prints to the Paris World Exhibition in 1867. He took pictures of buildings, sites of commerce, paddlewheel boats on the docks, neighborhoods, etc. The collection of 150 large-sized prints presented an excellent portrait of New Orleans.

After the expo, the prints were given to Emperor Napoleon III. They were rediscovered relatively recently in Switzerland. A show of surviving photos was staged jointly by NOMA and Tulane's Newcomb Art Gallery in 2000.

Merrell publishing recently released New Orleans 1867: Photographs by Theodore Lilienthal. Author Gary Van Zante, the curator of architecture and design at MIT, has exhaustively researched the photos and their contents — particular buildings, businesses, neighborhoods, architecture. The book presents 126 of the original 150 shots.

Van Zante will speak about the photos and the book Thursday (5 p.m., March 6) at the Garden District Book Shop (2727 Prytania St., 895-2266).

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