Museums are more than just darkened spaces with plenty of air conditioning in which to hide from the heat. New Orleans' museums have a bevy of summertime exhibitions that cover everything from contemporary art to the spiritual ramifications of the African diaspora. Here are just a few examples of the cultural wealth (and cool, dry air) you'll find at local museums.
Ashe Cultural Arts Center (1712 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 504-569-9070; www.ashecac.org) — The Maafa: Roho ya Babu exhibit opens June 27. The exhibit takes its name from Kiswahili words: maafa, or "great disaster" and refers to the death of enslaved Africans during the Middle Passage from Africa to the Americas, roho means "soul" or "spirit" and babu means "grandfather or ancestor". Together, the words refer to the connections between the ancestors and the present and future generations of the African diaspora.
Beauregard-Keyes House and Garden Museum (1113 Chartres St., 504-523-7257; www.bkhouse.org) — Piccolo Palermo: The Sicilian Immigrant Experience opens July 5 and is packed with oral histories of descendants of New Orleans' early Sicilian population, including the Gia- cona family who owned the house from 1904-1926.
The Historic New Orleans Collection (HNOC) (533 Royal St., 504-523-4662; www.hnoc.org) — The HNOC presents Storyville: Madams and Music, a selection of maps, photos and the infamous "blue book" directories to the brothels and bars of Storyville, New Orleans' red-light district that had its heyday in the early 20th century. Admission is free. (Free smartphone tours and $5 docent-led tours are available for some HNOC exhibits.)
The National World War II Museum (945 Magazine St., 504-528-1944; www.nationalww2museum.org) — The Louisiana Memorial Pavilion at the National World War II Museum presents Arsenal of Democracy: The Herman and George Brown Salute to the Home Front, an exhibit about America's road to World War II and efforts to support the soldiers who went to war. Admission to the museum is free for veterans.
New Orleans Museum of Art (1 Collins Diboll Circle, 504-658-4100; www.noma.org) — Pride of Place: The Making of Contemporary Art in New Orleans opens June 23. The exhibit of Arthur Roger's personal contemporary art collection includes over 80 paintings, photos and sculptures. Museum admission is free on Wednesdays.
Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane University (Woldenberg Art Center, 6823 St. Charles Ave., Suite 202, 504-865-5328; www.newcombartmuseum.tulane.edu) — The museum hosts Beyond the Canvas: Contemporary Art from Puerto Rico through July 9 to coincide with the centennial of Puerto Rico's U.S. citizenship. Admission is free.
Ogden Museum of Southern Art (925 Camp St., 504-539-9650; www.ogdenmuseum.org) — William Eggleston's photography exhibit, Troubled Waters, and The Colorful South, an exhibit by five artists around the time of Eggleston, are on display. Louisiana residents get in free on Thursdays, and UNO students and staff are free every day. Current military personnel and their families get in free from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Southern Food and Beverage Museum (1504 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 504-569-0405; www.natfab.org) — The musuem presents Shakers, Knives and Irons, photographer Romney Caruso's collection of photos that depict the bartenders and chefs who power the hospitality industry — and their tattoos — and the artists who design those tattoos. The exhibit opens July 9.