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Exploring the Past in Louisiana

Archaeology and History Sites in Louisiana

DePrato Mounds

Also known as the Ferriday Mounds, the DePrato Mounds in Concordia Parish are among the various earthen tumuli erected across eastern North America during various periods of prehistory. Here were built five platform mounds and a central plaza area; the largest of these mounds has been dated to 600 CE. Due to the deposition of sediment from repeated flooding, the mounds now look much smaller than they would have when first built.

Evergreen Plantation

One of the most intact of the plantations that the American South is famous for, the Evergreen Plantation near Wallace stands west of the Mississippi River. The main house remains, although was heavily restored during the 1940s. One of the plantation’s most important heritage features is 22 timber cabins where enslaved labourers were housed in the 19th century. Today, Evergreen remains a working sugar-cane plantation although tours are available.

Frogmore Plantation

Frogmore Plantation near Ferriday in Concordia Parish is a historic cotton plantation. Among its structures is the main house, named Gillespie, and the timber cabins in which enslaved workers lived. The plantation also contains a historic cotton gin, a device used to separate cotton fibres from their seeds. Frogmore is still an operational cotton farm although visitors can explore the historic site as part of a guided tour.

Hermann-Grima House

The Hermann-Grima House in New Orleans’ French Quarter was built in 1831. Designed in the Federal architectural style, among its historic features are an open courtyard, an open-hearth kitchen, and quarters for enslaved domestic workers. Between the 1920s and 1975, the Christian Woman’s Exchange operated it as a female boarding house. It then underwent restoration to return it to its early 19th century appearance and became a heritage attraction.

Laura Plantation

Standing on the west bank of the Mississippi River near Vacherie, the Laura Plantation was one of various wealthy farms that flourished here in the 19th century. The main house is of an early 19th-century Créole style; various historic outbuildings survive, including two timber cabins where enslaved labourers resided. The parents of the famous singer Fats Domino lived on the plantation. Laura Plantation is now a heritage attraction open to tours.

Longue Vue House and Gardens

Completed in 1942, the Longue Vue House and Gardens represents one of the last mansions erected during the so-called ‘Country Place Era’ of U.S. architectural history. Created as a home for Edgar and Edith Stern, the mansion and its gardens were designed in tandem, to better mirror each other. Reflecting the Stern’s wealth, the interior rooms boast a broad and lavish collection of antiques, European carpets, artworks, needlework, chintz, and porcelain.

LSU Campus Mounds

Across much of the eastern half of North America, various prehistoric communities built large earthen mounds, often as burial markers for the dead. As their name suggests, the LSU Campus Mounds stand on the grounds of the Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Excavation in the 2010s revealed evidence that they may have been built over 10,000 years ago, an astonishing claim yet to be fully scrutinised.

Marskville Prehistoric Site

Marskville Prehistoric Site in Avoyelles Parish comprises a range of archaeological features including several burial mounds. Archaeologists refer to those who created it as being members of the Marksville culture, which they argue lasted between 100 BCE and 400 CE. Indeed, as its name suggests, the Marksville Prehistoric Site is seen as the ‘type site’ for this culture. The site is generally closed to the public but can be visited through prior arrangement.

Poverty Point

One of the most famous prehistoric sites in the south-eastern states, Poverty Point is now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in West Carroll Parish, it consists of a series of earthworks created between 1700 and 1100 BCE, in the Late Archaic period of North American prehistory. Its builders were members of communities whom archaeologists now refer to as the Poverty Point culture. The precise purpose of this monument complex remains a mystery.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans is one of the city’s best-known heritage attractions. The oldest city in the cemetery, it started life in 1789 and remains under the control of the city’s Roman Catholic authorities. Many famous New Orleanians are buried here, including the city’s first African American mayor, Ernest N. Morial, and the Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. Entry is permitted only as part of a licensed tour group.

Museums in Louisiana

American Italian Museum

The American Italian Museum in New Orleans is part of the broader American Italian Cultural Center. Although comparatively small, it focuses on the culture and heritage of the Italian American community, exploring the factors pushing people to leave Italy in the 19th and 20th centuries and the experiences they had on arriving in the U.S. The Center promotes Italian and Italian American culture through language classes and special events throughout the year.

Germantown Colony and Museum

The Germantown Colony and Museum in Minden marks one of three sites in Louisiana established by the Harmony Society, a utopian Christian sect which originated in Germany. Society members initially settled in the north-eastern states but some members headed south, where the Countess Leon oversaw the creation of this community in 1835. Various 19th century buildings still survive, accompanied by a museum about the sect and its history that opened in the 1970s.

LSU Rural Life Museum

Run by the Louisiana State University, the Rural Life Museum in Baton Rouge brings together a range of historic structures built in the 18th and 19th centuries. These include various buildings from a plantation which would have housed enslaved persons, as well as homes built by Arcadian and Anglo-American settlers. Various artefacts used in agricultural and other rural activities by past generations are also displayed. Special events take place throughout the year.

Louisiana History Museum

The Louisiana History Museum in Alexandria explores the history of the Bayou State, with a particular focus on its central region. It occupies a building dating from 1907 which initially served as the Alexandria Public Library. The museum was established in 1971 and brings together collections covering a broad range of themes, including the Native peoples of Louisiana, the periods of Spanish, French, and British rule, and the Civil War.

Multicultural Center of the South

The Multicultural Center of the South in Shreveport focuses on the complex and varied heritage of north-west Louisiana. Among the communities who are showcased at the museum are longstanding ones like the Native American, African American, Cajun, and Creole populations, as well as more recent arrivals such as the Filipinos, Vietnamese, and Pakistanis. Open since 1999, the museum houses over 2000 artefacts in its collection. Various temporary exhibitions supplement the main displays.

New Orleans African American Museum

Established in 1996, the New Orleans African American Museum focuses attention on the history of the African American community in Louisiana. The museum occupies a former plantation; the main structure is the Meilleur-Goldthwaite House built in the 1820s. Six other historic buildings stand within its grounds. The area of the city in which it can be found, Tremé, was home to one of the country’s most prosperous black communities by the mid-19th century.

New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum

New Orleans is internationally renowned for Voodoo, a religion deriving from the syncretism of traditional West African beliefs and Roman Catholicism. Visitors can learn more at the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum, which has operated since 1972. Its collection includes a range of artworks and ritual paraphernalia, allowing a better comprehension of this much misunderstood religious tradition. The museum offers readings with Voodoo practitioners and tours of the nearby St. Louis Cemetery.

Southern Food and Beverage Museum

Founded in 2004, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans explores the heritage of those cuisines traditionally found in the southern states. Displays cover a broad range of dishes from different regions, exploring their importance for the cultural heritage of those who create and consume them. The museum also houses the smaller Museum of the American Cocktail, as well as a research library open to scholars exploring culinary heritage.

The Historic New Orleans Collection

The Historic New Orleans Collection has been preserving and showcasing material covering the history of this famous city since 1996. Based in New Orleans’ French Quarter, it is spread across several buildings dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. Displays cover such varied topics as jazz, local German settlement, and the War of 1812. Temporary exhibitions supplement the main collection. A library and archive are open to researchers. Many exhibits are free.

Vermilionville Historic Village

Opened in 1990, the Vermilionville Historic Village in Lafayette brings attention to the Attakapas region as it existed in the 19th century. Displays cover the various different communities who lived here, among them Native Americans, African Americans, Acadians, and Creoles. A range of 18th and 19th century structures have been moved here for their long-term preservation, reflecting various regional styles, and are often staffed by reenactors in period costume.

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