Enhancing the Louisiana Gallery at the DAR Museum

Written by: WIlliam Strollo, DAR Museum Curator of Exhibitions
July 24, 2019

The Louisiana Gallery is unlike any of the other DAR Museum period rooms because it interprets a theme rather than a specific room at a particular point in time. For centuries, Louisiana’s diverse cultures made the Pelican State unlike any other. Likewise, Louisiana women of varied backgrounds contributed much to the state and nation. These influences, both general and specific, are the focus of the Louisiana Gallery's interpretation.

For almost two decades, the Louisiana Gallery interpreted general contributions by women in Louisiana, as well as highlighting some decorative art pieces from the region. Over the past year, DAR Museum staff researched more specific contributions made by Louisiana women and included those not represented in the previous interpretation. In order to effectively convey this theme, we took some of the focus off of the decorative arts and shifted attention to larger historical events and movements affecting the area. For example, one aspect that is now explored in the room is how women contributed to war efforts within the state and how their identity shifted as a result of invasion and conflict.

The rearrangement of collection items in the Louisiana Gallery and the acquisition of new objects help to strengthen the story that we tell. For example, among the recent acquisitions is an 1887 engraving from Harper's Weekly titled "An Old Louisiana Sugar Plantation." This print depicts the various stages of sugar production, a major economic driver in the state, and the individuals involved. Noticeably missing from the previous interpretation was the contribution of African Americans, free and enslaved, to the state. This print allows the DAR Museum to interpret the important roles that African Americans played in the economic and agricultural growth of the state.

While we made great strides over the year, we will continue to look for opportunities and objects to further strengthen the interpretation in the Louisiana Gallery. Recognizing Louisiana’s rich culture, Museum staff remains on the "look-out" for objects that can speak to the state’s myriad musical, artistic and culinary contributions. As new objects are added to the collection, the stories told in the Louisiana Gallery will continue to develop. Next time you are at the DAR Headquarters, please be sure to visit the Louisiana Gallery, which is located on the lower level of Memorial Continental Hall, to learn how the Baroness de Pontalba, Eliza Nicholson and others contributed to the state's diverse culture and our larger American narrative.

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