Traveling exhibit chronicles nations, cultures of the Louisiana Purchase

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 19, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Maps, documents, paintings and other artifacts tracing the historical significance of the Louisiana Purchase was one of the topics discussed during the first day of the 14th annual Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration.

Dr. Alfred Lemmon, director and manuscripts curator of The Historic New Orleans Collection in New Orleans, gave a lecture about a traveling exhibit called, &uot;A Fusion of Nations, A Fusion of Cultures: Spain, France, the United States and the Louisiana Purchase.&uot; The traveling exhibit is an example of a larger exhibit now showing at The Historic New Orleans Collection museum in New Orleans.

&uot;The traveling exhibit kicks off here in Natchez and is one of three copies traveling through Louisiana,&uot; Lemmon said.

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The three smaller exhibits each display more than 20 examples of the historical maps, paintings and documents that were all part of the history and sale of the Louisiana territory. It traces the players, treaties and agreements from centuries before, which subsequently set into motion the 1803 transfer of Louisiana to the United States.

&uot;The traveling exhibit is just a taste of the larger exhibit in New Orleans. This version of the exhibit is designed so that it would be easily digested by eighth graders,&uot; Jason Wiese, special collections and projects librarian with the museum, said.

The exhibit shows some of the people and treaties involved during the course of the territory being transferred from France to Spain back to France and ultimately to the United States. The exhibit states that, &uot;The purchase of this vast land of Louisiana was a momentous event in the history of the United States because it effectively doubled the size of the country and insured western expansion, economic growth through undisputed waterways.

Lemmon and John Lawrence, director of museum programs, explained that the history of the territory before the sale to the United States was historically significant to Spain and France, and many of those documents are all part of the exhibit.

The men pointed to one document in the exhibit that showed Native American signatures on the Treaty of Nogales. The signatures, or symbols, of the Native Americans had to be translated on the document. The Oct. 28, 1793, treaty also was signed by representatives of Spain. It established a loose confederation between the Creek, Choctaw, Cherokee, Tallapoosa, Alabama and Chickasaw nations and the king of Spain in order to impede the westward expansion of the United States.

&uot;This created a buffer between one European nation and another,&uot; Lawrence said.

The traveling exhibits are designed to hit the highlights of the larger Louisiana Purchase exhibit in New Orleans, which includes more than 75 pieces.

&uot;This particular assemblage of items will probably never be together again,&uot; Lawrence said.

A big part of the museum’s collection includes maps of the Louisiana area.

During the afternoon events, Wiese gave a lecture on a new book that will be available this spring. The book chronicles 500 years of maps and tells the story of Louisiana and the Louisiana Territory from the earliest explorations of Hernando de Soto to the modern American state. The book includes maps from cartographers’ first attempts to chart the course of the Mississippi River and the region in the 16th century to a modern color-enhanced satellite view of Louisiana. The 430-page hardback book is being published by the museum and will cost $95.

The traveling exhibit is open for viewing in the lobby of the Natchez Convention Center, 211 Main St. The larger exhibit will be on display at the museum through June 7. The Historic New Orleans Collection is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 533 Royal St. in the historic French Quarter of New Orleans.

&uot;People shouldn’t go there just expecting to see some little scraps of important papers. This is a self-guided exhibit that comes to life through the rich paintings of the people who brought this together. The items are hooks on which to hang in order to get deeper into the story,&uot; Lemmon said.