October 2011 | Deb Burst

Treasures of Louisiana Bicentennial

The current exhibit at the Historic New Orleans Collection showcases "The 18th Star: Treasures from 200 Years of Louisiana Statehood." On display until January 29, 2012, the exhibit highlights keepsakes, mementos, valuable materials and some of the collection's signature holdings. The selections are presented in chronological order featuring political and military history, arts and literature, as well as social change and cultural diversity.

Royal Street Williams THNOC merieult-house.jpg
One of the more intriguing pieces is a copy of the first Constitution for the State of Louisiana (1812). It's an official document written in French which caused quite a commotion in the United States Congress. Although the document listed English as the state's official language subsequent amended documents continued to be written in French for more than one hundred years.

Listed below are more examples of the collection:

United States Coast Guard recruiting poster, circa 1941-43, silkscreen by Thomas A. Byrne, designer; Works Progress Administration.  

Thumbnail image for thnoc 18th star exhibit coast guard poster.jpg

Visual artists hired by the WPA used their talents to create images that alerted the public of the need to ration critical goods, stay healthy, avoid "loose talk" that could assist the enemy, and promote the war effort in various ways.

Stranded Livestock, 1927 photo, gift of Mr. and Mrs. L. Kent Nelson
thnoc 18th exhibit pigs on levee.jpg Livestock stranded on a levee during the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. The flood affected the entire Mississippi River Valley and caused more than $400 million in damages killing 246 people in seven states. As a result the Army Corps of Engineers was charged with taming the Mississippi River and built the world's longest system of levees and floodways to divert flooded waters. Some of the same systems that were put in use during the summer of 2011.

Indian Encampment, Louisiana circa 1860. Oil on board by Francois Bernard.
thnoc 18th star exhibit trees indians.jpg Nineteenth-century artists and writers often romanticized Indians as innocent "children of the forest" who were quickly and tragically diminishing due to the encroachment of American civilization. Bernard's study shows a small, peaceful group of Indians, some wrapped in blankets, others with babies or bundles strapped to their backs. The tribe is camped in a grove of trees with a cooking fire blazing at center foreground and possibly a body of water in the background.

Antoine "Fats" Domino, photo taken August 8, 1957 by Franck-Bertacci Photographers.

thnoc 18th star exhibit fats dominio.jpgSitting at a piano inside Cosimo Matassa's famed New Orleans recording Studio, Fats Domino teamed up with cowriter and producer Dave Bartholomew to record numerous hit songs that crossed racial boundaries in the 1950s. Domino's famous hits include such titles as "The Fat Man," "Ain't That a Shame," "Blueberry Hill," "I'm Walkin'," and "Walking to New Orleans."

Split-river cane handled carry basket photo courtesy of Lorena Langley.

thnoc 18th exhibit indian basket.jpgTraditional split-cane basketry, possibly dating from 900 ad, connects pre-contact Koasati, or Coushatta, with succeeding generations using baskets for food gathering. Preparation begins with harvesting cane from marshes or rivers. Then stripping and splitting the stalks along with some natural dying. Women weave the basket's bottom first, then angle strips upward, forming sides. Baskets similar to this may have been used for garden harvest.

Also in the collection are photos of Booker T. Washington in his 1915 tour of Louisiana with wide support of both African Americans and whites. Arthur P. Bedou, an African American photographer, operated a studio in New Orleans and had been Washington's personal photographer at the Tuskegee Institute.

Another interesting piece is the book, "La Cuisine Creole: A Collection of Culinary Recipes from Leading Chefs and Noted Creole Housewives," published in 1885 by Lafcadio Hearn. An eccentric traveler and writer, Hearn became fascinated with local culture during the decade he lived in New Orleans between 1867 and 1877. Although his collection of local recipes was not the first to feature Creole recipes, it helped introduce Creole cooking to a wider audience.

Founded in 1966, the Historic New Orleans Collection is a museum, research center and publisher dedicated to the study and preservation of the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South region. For more information visit www.hnoc.org or call 504-523-4662.