Capitol Park Museum is the place to visit first if you are a
newbie visiting Louisiana for the first time. It's relatively
new museum, opened in 2006 shortly after Katrina so it is all
state of the art and Disneyesque in its scale. Kids will be
fascinated as well as adults. It
really covers the state from the days of the Louisiana Purchase
to present. The museum, with 70,000 square feet of spectacular
exhibits, is the largest in Baton Rouge.
Since Louisiana is so culturally diverse
and rich in traditions and its history so unique, it had a lot
of material on which to base the exhibits.
Downstairs on the first floor, "Grounds for
Greatness: Louisiana and the Nation" focuses on people who made
Louisiana what it is today. You follow the "Father of Waters."
Exhibits from the earliest days like the mound builders of
Poverty Point, to the French and Spanish explorers and onward
focusing on how The Mighty Mississippi River features in shaping
the Louisiana we know today.
One of the last large wooden shrimp boats, The Coca-J,
holds pride of place here.
|Steamboat Coka-J is huge and
brings back days of the riverboat era on the Mississippi
Huey Long was one of the most memorable
politicians Louisiana ever produced. This September is the 80th
anniversary of his death. He was worshiped or
loathed. There was little middle ground when it came to "The
Kingfish" as he was called. There is a great video of him and
lots of his artifacts and personal possessions. I grew up in the
Earl Long days and I remember every time "Uncle Earl" did
something outragous, my parents woudl top the story with one of
Huey's more outrageous acts. To this day, there are still many
conspiracy theories related to Huey's assassination. Long had
announced his candidacy for presidency to run against President
Roosevelt just weeks before the assassination.
|Huey Long in his heyday
||Details of Long's assassination
African Americans formed a large part of
Louisiana's cultural heritage. Slavery's place in rural
Louisiana is featured. One of the most moving exhibits is the
slavery exhibit that features a calaboose where slaves were
|Being locked behind these doors
was one of a Louisiana slave's worst nightmares
There is also an exhibit on Civil Rights. A
cool exhibit is a African American home with Clementine Hunter's
on Clementine Hunter.
|The hearse used to transport
Jefferson Davis' body
Louisiana's place in the country's wars is
featured here. Starting with the War of 1812, it goes through
the Civil War, and both World Wars. You'll find Andrew Jackson's
Battle of New Orleans battle flag, Zachary Taylor's sombrero,
Jefferson Davis's funeral hearse is out front and my favorite
here, the Mystery Submarine from the Civil War. (See
more about that here)
|Would you want to be inside the
The third floor exhibits focus on the
culture of the state. "Experiencing Louisiana: Discovering the
Soul of America," covers each region of Louisiana. You follow a
winding highway through all the regions of Louisiana since each
section has very different cultures.
Food is a big part of that culture. Perhaps
that is why you are greeted by a giant crawfish peeping over a
postcard from Louisiana at the exhibit entrance.
Music played a big part in Louisiana's
history. Cajun, Zydeco, Jazz, Blues, and Rock and Roll are
represented here. You will find Louis Armstrong's bugle and a
jacket belonging to Fats Domino.
|Instruments belonging to
Louisiana's musical greats
||Louis Armstrong exhibit
Mardi Gras is represented fully. There are
elaborate costumes worn by kings and queens of the krewes. There
are even floats.
|Entrance to the Mardi Gras
||A typical Mardi Gras float
However, it's not just the New Orleans
version of Mardi Gras you find here. Courir de Mardi Gras, or
the running of the Mardi Gras, is a common way Mardi Gras is
celebrated in rural Cajun areas (See
more about this.) Simply costumed horsemen ride through the
countryside seeking donations of chicken, sausage, vegetables
and rice to cook into gumbo
for a community celebration in the afternoon. Those who
donate are treated to music and dancing by the riders featuring
Cajun and Zydeco music.
|Part of the Mardi Gras exhibit about
Courir and an example of a costume worn by horsemen
Even the housing styles are displayed.
There is an exhibit about plantation homes and a simple shotgun
home like you see in New Orleans. In fact every facet of life in
Louisiana is found in this museum.
plantation and a shotgun house with a Lucky Dog cart
parked in front
Throughout the year, the museum also
features traveling exhibits.
This museum belongs on everyone's bucket
list. Plan on spending much more time in Capital Park Museum
than you originally scheduled.
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