The Historic New Orleans Collection's museum of local and regional history is almost hidden away within a complex of historic French Quarter buildings. The oldest, constructed in the late 18th century, was one of the few structures to escape the disastrous fire of 1794. (And because they had no storm damage, they were able to reopen in Oct 2005.) These buildings were owned by the collection's founders, Gen. and Mrs. L. Kemper Williams. Their former residence, behind the courtyard, is open to the public for tours. There are also excellent tours of the Louisiana history galleries, which feature choice items from the collection -- expertly preserved and displayed art, maps, and original documents like the transfer papers for the Louisiana Purchase (1803). The collection is owned and managed by a private foundation, not a governmental organization, and therefore offers more historical perspective and artifacts than boosterism. The Williams Gallery, also on the site, is free to the public and presents changing exhibitions that focus on Louisiana's history and culture, including a terrific Katrina-related one. They also have the best gift shop in town.
If you want to see another grandly restored French Quarter building (and a researcher's dream), visit the Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St., near Conti Street (tel. 504/598-7171), which houses and displays the bulk of the collection's many thousands of items. Admission is free.
- © Frommer's 2013
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- Highly Recommended 2010