Louisianian at Large

Museum Marches On
NEW ORLEANS –– Currently under way at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans are plans for four additional pavilions, a parade ground and a hotel and conference center. Future pavilions will feature greater- and lesser-known battles; American involvement in the liberation of POW camps and Holocaust documentation; displays of large-scale land, sea and air artifacts; and a visiting exhibitions gallery.

The museum was founded in 1991 by historian, author and educator Stephen Ambrose. It opened on June 6, 2000, the 56th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, in honor of the more than 16 million Americans who took part in the D-Day battle. In 2003 it was designated by the U.S. Congress as the nation’s official WWII museum.

New Orleans played a significant role in the D-Day invasion, for it was here at the Higgins Industries plant that the Landing Craft, Vehicle and Personnel, or LCVP, boat was designed and built.

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower commended the contribution of the boat, saying, “Andrew Higgins … is the man who won the war for us. … If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs, we never could have landed over an open beach.

The whole strategy of the war would have been different.”

Higgins Industries also manufactured Patrol Torpedo, or PT, boats that were used extensively in the Pacific Theater.

“My father didn’t speak very much about the war while I was growing up, so for me it is very much about understanding,” says Lori Bordelon of Waldheim. “My father, Leonard Tate, who is from Eunice and lived in New Orleans most of his adult life, served in the Pacific. This is a way for us, our grandchildren, to learn. Everyone should see this so we never forget. It makes you appreciate not only what these servicemen did for us, but even what those serving today are doing.”

Along with exhibits, the museum’s Solomon Victory Theater provides visitors with a 4-D cinematic experience through hourly play of Beyond All Boundaries: The War That Changed the World.

Chef John Besh’s 1940s-themed restaurant and cocktail bar, The American Sector, serves lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday.

Live and multimedia entertainment at The Stage Door Canteen re-creates the experience of 1940s USO clubs.

In conjunction with the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, a Smithsonian affiliate, the National World War II Museum in New Orleans is honoring passes issued through the Sixth Annual Smithsonian Museum Day celebration.

Passes for the Sept. 25 event are found on the www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday Web site.

Following the Trail
BATON ROUGE –– Louisiana’s African American Heritage Trail continues to expand as new locations are added to the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism’s “A Story Like No Other” Web site.

“It’s a way to showcase very wonderful things in our state given to us by the African American culture,” says Melody Alijani, director of research and development for the Louisiana Office of Tourism.

Visitors are invited to peruse 33 virtual trail markers in South, Central and North Louisiana. Each marker opens to an individual page that reveals bits of history, including, but not limited to, the story of slavery.

At Trail Marker 19, there is the story of St. Augustine Church in Natchez, located just northwest of Alexandria, where in 1803 Nicholas Augustin Metoyer funded the construction of the first black Catholic church in America.

At Trail Marker 26, you learn of the Hermione Museum in Tallulah, which features an exhibit on Madison Parish native Madam C.J. Walker (née Sarah Breedlove), America’s first self-made female millionaire, who during the 1920s developed hair care products specifically for blacks.

The interactive map even has audio clips that, with the help of Academy Award-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr., enliven the narrative.

“The Web site has definitely increased our visibility to diverse audiences,” says Laura Gates, superintendent of the Cane River Creole National Historic Park in Derry. “If you can find out information about your culture and are interested in learning about the development of your culture and its history, wouldn’t you want to go to sites like that?” Alijani reminds readers that the Web site, though about black history, is for everyone: “We can learn of things by being open to other cultures.”

Locations most recently included on www.astorylikenoother.com are Audubon State Historic Site/Oakley House and Rosedown State Historic Site in St. Francisville, Centenary State Historic Site in Jackson, the Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site in St. Martinville, Winter Quarters Plantation in Newellton, Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville and Fort Pike State Historic Site in New Orleans.