The West Baton Rouge Historical Association’s evolving collections comprise more than 12,000 artifacts that chronicle the history and culture of the entirety of West Baton Rouge Parish and the ways in which the parish relates to state, national, and global history. Collection items range in date from the late 18th century to present time. These artifacts are available for exhibition and research.
The Historical Association’s collections support the museum’s mission and primary interpretive themes. Our interpretive themes include:
Sugar Industry & Rural Life in WBR Parish
Sugar has shaped the landscape and development of the parish essentially from the onset of European contact in the area. The Aillet House (c. 1830 historic structure on the grounds of the museum) contains decorative arts and furnishings that represent the life of Creole plantation owners, specifically two of the families that lived in the home. The Parish is slowly losing its identity as an agrarian rural community. The museum continues to be a repository for items that represent rural culture in this area including:
- Images, documents, and artwork from local farms and mills
- The 1904 model of a sugar mill
- Cinclare sugar mill gears on the museum grounds
- Domestic tools for spinning, weaving, sewing and canning
- Books and publications related to agriculture as well as domestic activities such as cooking and homemaking
- Photographs of sugar plantations, agricultural processing and workers
- Furnishings from an Empire style bedroom on display in the Aillet House
- A collection of historic plows, tractors and other farm implements
- Historic sugar kettles
- Sugar sacks from local mills
Urban Development within the Parish
The collection includes items and photos that document the development of urban centers throughout the parish. The building of railroads, bridges, and factories all aided in the industrialization and urbanization of the parish over time. Examples include items representing key industries and agencies within the parish that pertain to urban development such as documents from local government or businesses and photos of construction projects.
- Images and documents illustrating the development of communities in WBR
- Cohn School Records
- Artifacts and documents from businesses in WBR parish
- Photographs and artifacts from schools in WBR parish
- Photographs of both the old and new Mississippi River bridges being constructed
- Large collection of printing plates from the West Side Journal
- Maps representing WBR development
Local Folklife & Music
The museum is one of the best venues for preserving and celebrating historic folklife in the parish. Local crafts, art, and cultural items that represent the people and traditions of this parish are included in the collection. This category includes objects that speak to the cultural and ethnic origins of early parish populations including Acadian, German, Spanish, Italian, French, African, British, Irish and Native American.
- Items made by local craftsmen
- Images, documents, and artifacts pertaining to the Blues including local musicians Slim Harpo and the Raful Neal Family
- Sculptures by Port Allen native Ronald Trahan
- Broommaking machine and brooms created by WBR resident Bill Tippit.
- Large collection of duck decoys created by south LA artisans.
- Quilts and textiles made by local residents.
- Artifacts used at traditional Italian St. Joseph’s Altars
The presence of the Mississippi River is crucial to understanding the settlements, commerce, life ways, agriculture, industry, and folkways in West Baton Rouge. Steamboat culture, including the ferryboats, was at one time vital parts of living in West Baton Rouge. Items in our River Life collection include:
- Navigational charts of the River, c. 1880s
- Images and documents from ferry workers
- Collection of c. 1950 aerial photos of Port Allen, most of which show the River
- Collection of photos of the Port, 1960s-70s
- Slides showing the Delta Queen boat, 1974
- Documents and photos related to the building of the Intracoastal Canal
- Model of the ferry “Louisiana”
Military and Political History
The role West Baton Rouge citizens played in our state, national, and global politics impacted the families of the parish dramatically. The history of slavery, Reconstruction, the Jim Crow era, and civil rights in the 20th century impacted thousands of West Baton Rouge citizens not just politically, but socially and economically as well. Wars have turned citizens into soldiers and impacted the quality of life in the parish and, consequently, made political and social changes to the state and country.
- Military uniforms and family correspondence
- Flags including a banner from the Delta Rifles
- Postcards and souvenirs collected from Europe during WWI
- Photographs of local political leaders
- Artifacts from the WBR Parish courthouse through the years
- Oral history recordings from WBR residents who were involved in Civil Rights
How to Donate Artifacts
Please email Curator of Collections Lauren Hawthorne or call at 225-336-2422, ext. 209 if you have West Baton Rouge Parish memorabilia, documents, artifacts, or art to donate to the collection.