Many people have been to the Cabildo or the Presbytere, but according to Julie Breitmeyer, “Most people here don’t have any idea what the Louisiana State Museum is.” Both are officially Louisiana state museums, she said, as are the 1850 House, the Old U.S. Mint, the Lower Pontalba, the Arsenal, the Creole House, the Jackson House and Madame John’s Legacy.
Breitmeyer, who serves as an at-large member of the Louisiana Museum Foundation board of directors, said the foundation helps support historic properties in New Orleans that are part of the state museum. The foundation was established in 1981 to offer financial assistance beyond that provided by the state. Its support has helped provide public programming such as exhibits; programs for school children, families and the general public; history workshops for teachers; concerts, lectures and film series; receptions; conservation and accessions; and the endowment fund.
The Louisiana Museum Foundation recently held its annual meeting where members learned of “A Tale of Two Coats.” This is an important conservation project undertaken by the foundation slated to be completed in time for the bicentennial celebration of the Battle of New Orleans, fought on Jan. 8, 1815.
An officer’s blue and red wool coat, a garment worn by Lt. Col. William Sutherland Hamilton, is believed to be the only one of its kind in any collection, public or private. Because of pest infestation, the coat is badly deteriorated, particularly in back. The work will involve hand dying fabrics to match existing cloth, as well as meticulous stitching so the repairs will be nearly undetectable. Restoration is expected to require between 350 and 400 hours by experienced conservators and to cost as much as $35,000.
This treasured military uniform coat was the show-and-tell at the foundation’s recent annual membership meeting. The notification of the meeting was illustrated by photos of a restored coat that had been worn by Philogene Favrot about the same time, and Hamilton’s unrestored coat with a heading “It was the best of times,” and Hamilton’s coat as “It was the worst of times.” It was titled “A Tale of Two Coats.”
Jessica Hack, a renowned textile conservator, and Wayne Philips, Louisiana State Museum’s curator of costumes and textiles, presented the program to a rapt audience.
Susan Maclay, executive director of the foundation, said there are about 100 full voting members. Some are represented by couples that still have just one vote, as well as Bon Ami supporters and junior members at different membership levels. She said about 80 members and guests attended the meeting and program, which was held at Ralph’s on the Park.
The meeting included the installation of new board member Philip Hodges, and there was plenty of time for both the program and visiting.
For information on the foundation, call (504) 558-0493.