Oak Alley’s Research and Collections Department reflects the plantation’s layered 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 secondary collection 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.
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.
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.
Additional Research and Collections Content: