The Louisiana History Galleries
The Louisiana History Galleries, described by major guidebooks as “the best introduction to the city that a visitor can get,” are on the second floor of the 1792 Merieult House at 533 Royal Street and comprise thirteen galleries.
The Collection unveiled a new and improved version of its oldest exhibition, the Louisiana History Galleries, in fall 2012. More than a year in development, the revamped galleries stay true to their original theme while introducing new artifacts and interactive digital content.
“From the time the history galleries were established with the opening of the museum [in 1974], they were always designed to present a narrative of Louisiana history,” says John Lawrence, director of museum programs. “The last time the galleries were renovated in a major way [was] in the early 1990s. The new installation will essentially bring the narrative up to the present.”
The updated exhibition features 800 additional square feet of gallery space—repurposed from the former executive offices—as well as new sections on hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. More space will be dedicated to precolonial and colonial history, Lawrence says. “The rooms that were available for their display in the previous incarnation were not really large enough to suggest the richness of that content.”
Although most of the galleries are organized chronologically, one new chamber, called the Objects Gallery, presents items “in splendid isolation from their historical peers, permitting contemplation of their significance and artistry from a new angle,” Lawrence says.
In all, the exhibition has seen a 25 percent increase in artifacts on display. Some are recent acquisitions, and others are simply new to the history galleries. Lawrence says The Collection will rotate items in and out of the exhibition to regularly provide doses of fresh content.
In addition, the galleries feature an unprecedented level of digital enhancements, with an iPad kiosk in each section to provide related audiovisual content. For example, the kiosk in the 1850–1880 area will offer visitors clips of the music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, a Louisiana-born composer and pianist who reached international stardom. The 1880–1930 kiosk will display a 360-degree aerial view of the Central Business District in 1920.
For the first time, The Collection will offer visitors the option of a self-guided tour using an app for iPhone or iPad (with Android capability planned for next year), which will provide additional information at stops throughout the exhibition. “It will help you understand more of what the history galleries are about if you’re unable to take a docent-led tour,” says Steve Sweet, manager of internet and interactive development.
Visitors may also use a QR-code reader—an app that scans a special type of bar code—to call up additional information or websites about certain items or topics featured in the exhibition. “If you walk through the exhibition and you don’t have much time, you can scan the QR code with your phone and get information to read later,” Sweet explains.
A work in progress, additional items and interactive content are still being added to the galleries and docent-led, guided tours will make their return in spring 2013.
The Louisiana History Galleries are currently open for self-guided tours Tuesday–Sunday. Boxed sets of note cards featuring reproductions of images featured in the Louisiana History Galleries are available for purchase in The Shop.