The Louisiana State Museum’s Cabildo is located in New Orleans’ famous Jackson Square, alongside the Presbytere (another Louisiana State Museum building) and the St. Louis Cathedral. The building itself, originally built by the Spanish Government, has a great deal of historical significance and has three floors of fascinating exhibits relating to the building as well as other historical and cultural facets of New Orleans.
The architecture of the building and the rooms within are worth a visit in their own right. The building has a beautiful “porch” with numerous large archways, an enclosed courtyard and several rooms that had been used as prison cells. Inside the Sala Capitular (Capitol Room) is the most famous and was the room in which the Louisiana Purchase transactions were carried out. The room was also home to both Spanish and Louisiana courts.
The Cabildo exhibits provide the viewer a cultural and historic view of New Orleans and Louisiana beginning from the time of the area was home to Native Americans through the colonial period, the Louisiana Purchase, Battle of New Orleans, the Civil War and beyond. Each “period” exhibition area holds a variety of original items, including clothing, tools, implements, furniture and furnishings specific to that particular era. Fortunately The Cabildo suffered only minor damage from Hurricane Katrina and none of the priceless exhibits were damaged.
The Cabildo is a very popular tourist destination because it holds and tells so much although it is not huge or overwhelming, and is “kid friendly”. Every museum has one particular item that most people remember above all. In The Cabildo it is probably the “death mask” of Napoleon; it is morbid in a sense, but extremely fascinating. As with all of New Orleans, museum personnel do everything to make a visit worthwhile.