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The Cabildo: A Walk Through Louisiana’s Past

by Erin Kruml (01/25/08).
Third Floor, Anteblleum Section
Sala Capitula
Hallway on Second Floor
Sign Outside the Cabildo
Cabildo, Outisde the Museum
Cabildo, Oustide the Museum

The Cabildo
701 Chartes St.
Jackson Square, New Orleans LA
Admission $6 Adult/$5 Student

The Cabildo, once the governing building of the Spanish government in New Orleans, is today an elaborate museum set in a historical and magnificent building. From Meso-Indians to Reconstruction, the Cabildo Louisiana Museum presents a broad view of Louisiana’s history. With the help of illustrations, reproduced images and artifacts the museum tells the story of the first settlers of Louisiana. As one walks throughout the historic building, the story of the state is told. Unfortunately the Cabildo does not give out a brochure, but the lady at the front desk is so helpful you do not need a map. I was surprised at the size of the Cabildo, and the variety of objects that lie within. I was expecting just history on the Spanish period of New Orleans. Though there is some favoritism to the Spanish period (1763-1803), the majority of the exhibit is truly about Louisiana culture and how it has changed throughout history. Each room covers a section of history.

The Corps de Grande, once a police station in the 18th-19th centuries, holds the Pre-colonial and Colonial exhibits. Besides ancient artifacts like bowls and arrowheads, the room displays military weapons from the 1790s. This section of the exhibit highlights the different populations moving into Louisiana, especially during the Spanish era when a variety of peoples from Acadians to Canary islanders joined the population. The next room contains articles referencing entertainment of the Colonial populations including cards and a wonderful cabinet piano that contains all its inner workings above storage shelves on top of the keyboard. In the circular staircase hallway is a small section on Napoleon. His death mask, misplaced during the civil war, is found there, truly bringing Napoleon to life for generations to come. On the second floor the old Treasurer’s office now holds an exhibition on Andrew Jackson and the War of 1812. The next room, the Sala Capitula, was once the meeting place for the New Orleans City Council. The scene has been recreated with a long table and pews. Exit the Sala Capitula and enter a long hallway that looks out onto Jackson Square. The view from the second floor is exquisite, overlooking the park and Jackson’s statue. On the other side of the second floor the exhibit continues into Antebellum Louisiana (1812-1860). This section includes information on popular entertainment for slaves and the well to do of the time, death in Louisiana, especially common due to yellow fever, and the different people that compose the varied population of New Orleans. The third floor continues the Antebellum section with displays on the slave trade to agrarian life to living in New Orleans. The museum then moves onto the Civil War and Reconstruction periods. Included in this part of the exhibit are an upright piano from 1855, old Tabasco Sauce bottles and a large state lottery wheel. Information abounds, so be ready to spend a few hours reading at the Cabildo, but do not miss the great cultural artifacts of yesteryear while your educating yourself on the history of Louisiana.

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