About this blog . . .

This blog is about 80% journal, 20% review. These posts may describe very recent visits or visits taking place in the last 3 or 4 years--please feel free to update or correct any of my information in the comments or through an email message.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Presbytere and Cabildo/Louisiana State Museums, New Orleans

The Presbytere and the Cabildo are both part of the Louisiana State Museum.  The two  buildings flank the St. Louis Cathedral at one end of Jackson Square.

The Cabildo--originally a government building for the Spanish colonial administration in the late 18th century --focuses on early New Orleans and Louisiana.  On the ground floor, down the hall from the entry room, two large rooms feature exhibits on Spanish and French Colonial artifacts and information.  Small 2-3 person benches paired with video screens allow visitors to sit and take in short films on episodes in Louisiana history.  Other exhibits display furniture, documents, and other artifacts of early Louisiana.

A large carpeted stairway--decorated with a portrait of famous New Orleans voodoo queen Marie Leveau--leads to the upstairs galleries.  An airy connected hallway overlooks Jackson Square.  Take a few minutes to rest and drink in the view below.  One room--at one point part of the Supreme Court where Plessy v. Ferguson was argued--has more artifacts from earlier centuries, including a death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte.  Another looks at hard times in New Orleans--specifically, the epidemics that plagued all river and port cities in previous centuries.  Information on medicine and funeral rituals completes the experience.

Next door, the early culture of New Orleans is spotlighted, with images of theaters and performance venues and a display of musical instruments, including some hands-on drums visitors can try out. Visitors can follow the Battle of New Orleans through maps and artifacts, including a lock of hair purportedly belonging to Andrew Jackson.

The top floor covers the horrors and hardships of slavery and the effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction on Louisiana.  Letters and diaries, personal narratives, clothing, and other artifacts illustrate the history here.

 The Presbytere continues the story of New Orleans--in particular, the 21st century and Katrina.  The entry room uses indigo lighting to create a somber mood, and Fats Domino's piano--posed in the position in which it was found after Katrina--greets visitors.  Beyond the entry, exhibits cover the science of hurricanes.  One darkened room plays a repeating loop of Katrina footage on a wall-sized screen.  Another features artifacts and stories from the storm--a wall with the distinctive red markings of city inspectors, the handwritten narrative scrawled by a survivor on his wall as he remained trapped in his house, videos of interviews with survivors, and stories of rescuers.

Bottles hanging from ceiling in entry room

Upstairs, the museum shifts into party mode for the Mardi Gras museum.  Besides the obvious--and entrancing--displays of opulent costumes and magnificent images of floats--the museum covers the origins of Mardi Gras in the United States.  One helpful poster explains how to determine Mardi Gras dates each year.  Others discuss the complex culture of Krewes, Kings, and other Mardi Gras traditions.  The museum goes beyond the modern New Orleans version of Mardi Gras to look at folk traditions and Carnival celebrations in rural areas. 

The final touch--restrooms that resemble the port-a-potties on the parade route.

The museums offer a two-fer; admission to both sites for a reduced charge.  Visitors should definitely visit both; I would suggest on consecutive days to avoid museum fatigue.  You'll be in the area every day of your visit anyway--or you should be--so take them both in and steep yourself in New Orleans history from the 1700s to the present.

From the museum website:

The Cabildo and Presbytere

701 and 751 Chartres St., New Orleans LA 70116

Admission--for each museum:
Adults                                                          $6.00
Students, Senior Citizens, Active Military     $5.00
Children 12 and under                                  Free
                   **** 20% discount if tickets for 2 or more museums are purchased.
Hours:  Tuesday-Sunday 10:00 am - 4:30 pm
Closed Monday and state holidays.
 Phone: 504-568-6968
Toll-Free: 1-800-568-6968
Fax: 504-568-4995


  1. We got even more of a discount because we requested a tour and the guide was on vaca! Go us!

  2. Yes, there was some sort of walking tour advertised every other week or something--have to find that and add it in when I have a chance.