Louisiana’s aviation museum
Take a trip back in time to the origins of aviation in Louisiana.
Imagine yourself in the stands of an air race in the 1930s. The stubby, streamlined beauties come roaring around the pylons, monster engines at full throttle. Your neck cranes to follow the action overhead. Prop wash blows past your face.
With its 180-degree surround video screens, and state-of-the-art animation, sound and wind effects, the new David J. Felterman Theater at the Louisiana State Museum - Patterson is a family-friendly time machine back to one of aviation's most exciting eras.
"Air racing in the 1930s was like NASCAR with wings," said museum director Kathryn Delee. "And it had a lot more glamour."
The museum is home to the Wedell-Williams Aviation Collection named for the legendary pilot and mechanic Jimmie Wedell and for Harry P. Williams, the Morgan City oilman and timber baron who financed the development of faster and faster racing aircraft.
Visitors can see gleaming full-scale replicas of their famous planes – like the Miss Patterson 44, the We-Will 17, and the Gilmore Red Lion 121. The originals were built at the old We-Will Aircraft Company hangar at the Patterson airport, making Louisiana a center for advanced aviation technology at the time.
Other historic planes with Louisiana roots are on display – such as a Stearman crop duster that fought boll weevils and helped launch Delta Airlines in Monroe in the 1920s – along with photographs, posters, trophies, tools, and other memorabilia. A children's interactive gallery provides hands-on experience with the principles of flight.
In a separate wing, the museum presents the story of Louisiana's cypress logging industry with a fascinating collection of sawmill equipment and other artifacts, and a short film. Thousands of locals and visitors gather on the museum grounds for the annual Cypress Sawmill Festival in April, which raises funds for the museum’s community support groups.
The facility is part of the Louisiana State Museum system. Founded in 1906, the Museum collects, preserves and interprets Louisiana's rich cultural heritage from pre-historic times to the present through more than 450,000 objects and works of art. The Museum is part of the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.