Although not a native New Orleanian, once Mina Lea Crais left Wisconsin to accept a Librarian position with Tulane University, she set forth on a lifetime journey dedicated to New Orleans jazz. In January 1958 Mina and her husband, attorney and jazz trombonist Bill Crais, took over ownership of the Vieux Carré Music Shop at 706 Bourbon Street. They would later become part owners of Carnival Records and talent scouts for Golden Crest Records.
Mina was also an active member of the New Orleans Jazz Club, even serving on the board for several years. Returning from more than a decade away from New Orleans, she brought out the first issue of MECCA, a magazine devoted entirely to traditional New Orleans jazz in January 1974. Mina’s friendships and love of jazz afforded opportunities to attend recording sessions, parties at the homes of friends and musicians alike, and to document that world photographically with a collection that she recently donated to the Hogan Jazz Archive.
The Mina Lea Crais Photography Collection is a wonderful resource for any scholar desiring an inside glimpse into the world of New Orleans jazz, showcasing photos from festivals, recording studios, jazz funerals and parades, as well as notable musicians such as the Basin St. 6, Sharkey Bonano, Paul Barbarin and Billie and De De Pierce.