Part of the Louisiana State Museum system, The Presbytère and its sister building (The Cabildo) bookend St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square. My husband and I toured the historic Cabildo (site of the Louisiana Purchase transfer) on a previous visit to New Orleans, so we decided to check out The Presbytère on our most recent visit. Upon entering, we were greeted by a fascinating and very moving art installation in the lobby area -- "Message of Remembrances" by Mitchell Gaudet. The bottles signify the lives lost to Hurricane Katrina, while the blue glass hands represent those who rendered aid to flooded Gulf Coast residents. Moving beyond the lobby, the first floor features a wide variety of exhibits relating to Hurricane Katrina. It was a somber reminder of all the lives lost, yet there was also a sense of hope and inspiring survival stories. We saw that NOLA residents maintained their sense of humor, creating festive Mardi Gras costumes from the blue tarps used during and after Katrina. This transitioned nicely to the Mardi Gras exhibits on the second level, which cover the history of this annual event and highlight some of the colorful characters and accoutrements -- from elaborate Zulu costumes to Krewe floats to mannequins in Baby Doll regalia.
Given the building's convenient location on Jackson Square and modest $6 admission fee (discounts are available for students, seniors, military, and AAA members), I would highly recommend The Presbytère to anyone visiting New Orleans' French Quarter. It's a great way to get a feel for the fun of Mardi Gras, especially if you're not planning to spring for a more expensive ticket to Mardi Gras World; and it's also a good history lesson for those who would like to learn more about Katrina and other Gulf Coast hurricanes.
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