August 18-October 28, West Baton Rouge Museum
It was 1968 when Ethel Claiborne Dameron first had the idea to create a museum to preserve the history of West Baton Rouge Parish. She successfully petitioned local authorities to gain access to a former library space within the 1882-built old parish courthouse, and just over a year later, the West Baton Rouge Museum opened to the public.
The evolution of this institution is the focus of “Golden Anniversary: Treasures from the Collection,” an exhibition that opens on August 18 in the museum, which still features its original rooms as part of a complex that now includes two additional galleries, a pre-Civil War plantation cabin, a circa-1830 home and a 5,000-square-foot addition that was completed in 2002. The show will feature rare and eclectic items from the museum’s permanent collection, which contains nearly 4,000 objects and more than 1,300 photographs of local significance.
Among the artifacts on display will be a judge’s desk (above) used by local lawmakers as early as 1840, a monkey-fur-trimmed cape, and a wedding dress (left) from the early 19th century. “This exhibit will allow us to highlight items in our collection that may not have fit past exhibit subjects and show just how vast and interesting our collection is,” says curator of collections Elizabeth Brantley, adding that an increased number of future exhibitions will also highlight pieces from the museum’s own collection.
The show will open with a gala celebration for the museum’s membership society on August 18. Throughout the exhibition, there will be special lectures focusing on collections care as well as art classes inspired by the works on display.
“We’re excited to be able to document the history of the museum throughout its 50 years of preserving parish history,” Brantley says. “It is important that museums like ours grow and expand their programming so that future generations can understand their history and recognize the contributions of the people who came before them.”