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Oct-26-2010 14:12printcomments

'Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond'

The Louisiana State Museum opens riveting exhibit; a $7.5 million permanent installation mixing dramatic personal stories; moving artifacts and multi-media.

Hurricane Katrina Museum
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(NEW ORLEANS) - Riding a wave of interest building this storm season, the Louisiana State Museum officially opened its new exhibit on living with hurricanes today. Dozens of VIPs, including the director of the National Hurricane Center Bill Read, gathered in the French Quarter to unveil the $7.5 million, 6,700-square-foot installation Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond. It documents the Gulf Coast’s devastation and rebirth.

Katrina and Beyond details both the science – how the storms happened – and how people rebuilt,” says Read. “It’s a fascinating, moving experience. It’s worth a visit to New Orleans to see.”

The museum spent years collecting hundreds of artifacts in Katrina’s aftermath knowing that the storm would become a landmark in the nation’s history. Some of them include musician Fats Domino’s ruined baby grand piano and a humble hatchet used by a trapped family to escape rising waters. Now on display in the historic Presbytere, the objects and accompanying images, personal histories, and videos are spread throughout the building’s first-floor galleries.

“Hurricane Katrina was a watershed in American history,” says historian Doug Brinkley. “Never before did we watch the near total devastation of a major American city as it happened. The response and rebuilding challenged us as a nation. New Orleans and the Gulf Coast have come back renewed. The story of what happened five years ago must be remembered.”

The Boston-based firm ExperienceDesign collaborated with the Museum’s historians, curators and exhibit designers to showcase alls aspect of the story using artifacts and rich media – digital recordings, film and computer graphics.

“Modern museums can convey stories not just with objects but with spoken word and video,” says Museum Director Sam Rykels. “Living with Hurricanes use the thoughts and feelings of storm participants to make their stories even more powerful. People will encounter a compelling narrative as they walk through the galleries.”

Gallery One illustrates Louisiana’s history with water, from the Mississippi River’s benefits to the threats of coastal storm surges and floods. Visitors then walk through the “Evacuation Corridor,” overhearing residents’ voices as they weigh their options as Katrina approaches. The “Storm Theater” shows Katrina’s full fury with dramatic footage of the hurricane’s onslaught.

Gallery Two takes visitors past a leaking floodwall and into an attic and onto a roof where they can view the flooded city surrounding them. They’ll hear a firsthand account of a St. Bernard Parish family’s rescue and view artifacts, histories and photographs.

The forensics of Katrina unfolds in Gallery Three. Using technology and science interactive maps shows the paths of Katrina and Rita and the sequence of floods that inundated the region. Displays depict how the levees failed, the realities of eroding wetlands, disaster management, engineering and the science of predicting and tracking hurricanes.

The Fourth Gallery celebrates recovery and promotes preparedness. It showcases the ingenuity storm survivors displayed rebuilding their lives and communities. The gallery will be updated regularly to reflect advancements in flood protection, coastal restoration and new strategies for living with hurricanes.

Founded in 1906 with a mission to collect, preserve, interpret and present the state’s rich history and diverse cultures, the Louisiana State Museum’s collection now totals more than 450,000 artifacts and works of art. These provide an authentic experience of Louisiana to visitors from around the world while enhancing the quality of life for residents. The Museum is part of the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.

The exhibit will be located at The Presbytere on Jackson Square, New Orleans. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. For more information, please call 800.568.6968 or visit, on Facebook and Twitter.

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