Nearly identical in design to the Cabildo, the Presbytère was built was built on the site of the residence, or presbytere, of the Capuchin monks who served at St. Louis Cathedral. These landmark structures form the iconic image of New Orleans known the world over. The building was used for commercial purposes until 1834 when it became a municipal courthouse. It became part of the Louisiana State Museum in 1911.
The Presbytère’s two permanent exhibits tell two sides of the ongoing Louisiana story—one of celebration and one of resilience. Mardi Gras: It’s Carnival Time in Louisiana! offers a window into the annual celebration and riotous rituals of a festival that is inextricably woven into Louisiana’s way of life and whose roots extend deep into the Middle Ages. Elaborate costumes, colorful floats, and other artifacts capture the fun and frivolity of this unique celebration, while presenting an authentic history of Carnival through the centuries. Louisiana’s “Crown Jewels,” a collection of beautifully wrought crowns, scepters and other items worn by Carnival queens and kings, are a must-see display. Living with Hurricanes will inspire you as well, as a celebration of resilience in the face of catastrophe. The exhibit tells of rescue, rebuilding and renewal. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans’ badly engineered levee system, it resulted in one of the worst disasters in American history, leaving 80 percent of the city flooded and hundreds dead. The exhibit documents the event, the aftermath and southeast Louisiana’s ongoing recovery. With interactive exhibits and artifacts that showcase the spirit of the city’s residents, this is a collection you don’t want to miss. For more information, visit LouisianaStateMuseum.org.