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Oldest known footage of Mardi Gras festival in New Orleans discovered in Eye Filmmuseum’s collection

The colourful Mardi Gras carnival in New Orleans started in 1872 and was recorded on film relatively early on. Eye Filmmuseum recently found the oldest known footage of the musical parade festival in its collection.

By Eye Editors11 July 2022

The discovery of two minutes of film from a newsreel of the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans received column inches in The New York Times and the Smithsonian Magazine, making it news around the world.

The reporting was occasioned by the screening of a digitised copy at an exhibition at the Louisiana State Museum dedicated to the Rex Organization, one of the principal Mardi Gras parade organisers. This year, Rex celebrates its 150th anniversary.

The Louisiana State Museum’s curators wanted to screen the oldest film footage they could find of Mardi Gras. Their search led them to Eye’s Collection Centre.

The film museum’s researchers combed the database discovering footage from 1898. It was part of the renowned Mutoscope & Biograph collection, a rare collection of early newsreels.

The American curators’ research uncovered one of Eye’s hidden treasures. The film museum had conserved the two-minute snippet on film in the 1990s, but had not found out it was the oldest known footage of Mardi Gras and New Orleans yet.

Eye has been digitizing parts of Mutoscope & Biograph collection at high resolution (8K) for some time now. It is not inconceivable that previously unidentified or previously unidentified images from the era of early cinema will emerge during the process.

Alongside at the Louisiana State Museum, the footage can also be seen on YouTube:

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