Research and Collections

Research and Collections

Oak Alley Foundation's Research and Collections Department reflects the plantation’s evolved history--constructed over decades and lifetimes. Focused on interpreting the antebellum mansion and its contents, it cares for a wide variety of objects, research material and ephemera.

A large portion of the Collection is composed of Mrs. Stewart’s decorative arts, literature and photographs. Some of the objects, such as her tea set, reflect her personality and hospitality as Oak Alley’s last private resident. Others, such as her images of the plantation, show the adaptations she made as she restored her beloved home.

The department’s collection also preserves a large number of artifacts recovered from the historical site. Antebellum bricks, pottery pieces and other miscellaneous fragments give us a slim but invaluable glimpse into life on this sugar plantation and in particular, its enslaved community. It is this collection that inspired the Artifact Room, a new component of the mansion exhibit.

While not all collections are publicly displayed, their lessons and insight into Oak Alley’s heritage is nonetheless shared through our Historical Interpreters. As our mission states, we exist, “for the instruction, education, enlightenment, information, edification and cultural benefit of the citizens of the State of Louisiana, the United States and the public generally.” We are open to information requests from both students and researchers as we aim to share the History of Oak Alley, recognizing its unique place in the greater culture of Louisiana.

Slavery Research Database

Beginning in 2011, Oak Alley Foundation began a concentrated effort to better understand the lives of those who lived here in bondage. Unlike the owners of this sugar plantation, their human property did not leave elegant manuscripts or lengthy letters detailing their experience. Rather, in only what can be described as bitter irony, the same documents that legitimized their dehumanization are now all that remain to give us hints of their identity as people. These documents are inventories, sales records, deeds and successions, as well as religious documents such as sacramental records. 

While material is sparse, and certainly not as rich as a personal perspective, enormous insights can be made by examining these records. With this in mind, we are pleased to announce that Oak Alley Foundation has created an internet-accessible digital archive of the information we have gleaned from these documents, and details the lives of all enslaved individuals kept at this plantation. 
Assembled by our Education and Curatorial staff, the Oak Alley Slave Database brings together information from a wide variety of sources, the majority of them public repositories. It allows both browsing and advanced searching, enabling users to do comparative analysis, distinguish meaningful patterns, or simply better understand the lives of those enslaved at Oak Alley plantation. Lastly, this is a living document. As new material and discoveries are made, entries will be modified accordingly. 
Questions and comments may be directed to Laura Kilcer, Curator for Oak Alley Foundation.


Additional Research and Collections Content: