Thursday, April 11, 2013

30 Days of Why I Love New Orleans - Day 16


The Historical Wax Museum of New Orleans

                Musee Conti

            I have a love/hate relationship with wax museums. I’m not all that big on the ones that show you images of current stars and those departed. (Yes, I admit, I have had a
picture taken with wax figures.) But my real love is a wax museum that takes you through history and gives you the great and the traumatic events that shaped us into what we are. (Okay, I also love—love, love, love, a good chamber of horrors!) I believe that I’d be absolutely terrified if I were locked tight in a wax museum—certain that the figures would come to life and do me in.
They stare with sightless eyes, and yet we believe that they see. They are cast in various stages rld we now know.
                That said, in broad daylight, and with friends, I am fascinated by these museums in which we see these creations that are human—and not!
                The Historical Wax Museum of New Orleans, Musee Conti, doesn’t set out to terrify you or delight you with images of our current ‘hot’ stars of the silver screen. What it does do is show you the history of a city—New Orleans.
                It’s not a huge museum; you can see it in an hour or linger a little longer. It’s
wonderfully unique; the plan here is to tell a story, a specific story.
The Musee Conti is right on Conti (as the name would imply! Number 917, Rue Conti!) in the French Quarter—easy walking distance from most FQ hotels or bed and breakfast places. There are, they say, 154 figures. The tableaus in which they stand were carefully researched. The wax is beeswax—it’s added to a chemical compound. Eyes are imported from Germany and the human hair is imported from Italy. Tremendous care was and is given to the figures. 
                The museum, I believe, is something that writers and readers and anyone who has a love for the city would enjoy seeing—especially because of the specific stories it relates. There are tableaus that tell a tale of the people who came and made a difference in the city of
New Orleans. We all know about Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans. If history didn’t snare us all as children, school principal Jimmy Driftwood managed to do so with his song. (Look it up on youtube if you haven’t heard it—best version Johnny Horton’s 1959 number 1 hit!) And yes, you’ll find Andrew Jackson here—of course. He was incredibly important to the city of New Orleans, the parish—Louisiana and our country!
                But the history of the Battle of New Orleans isn’t all that you’ll find here—it’s a great place to get started at the beginning of NOLA and come all the way through. You’ll have been on Iberville and Bienville  and you’ll get to meet these men as they first came through the Louisiana swamps. You’ll get to see scenes that show voodoo priestesses and explain the real religious practice.   
                Arrrrh! Matey! Naturally, you’ll meet the Lafitte pirates here and learn more about them—the lives they led before and after the famous battle, and how pirates wound up with Andrew Jackson.
                And you’ll see more, too, as history moves on. The wax museum to me is wonderful
in that it depicts the high points of history, but doesn’t deny it. (You might have realized by now that I really hate white-washed history. Own up, man! That’s how we try to prevent hatred, war, and prejudice from rearing their cruel heads again!)
                The good—you’ll get to see some great jazz figures and others prominent in music, art, literature, and sports who called the city home or came to New Orleans to add their indelible touch to the wonderful city.
                Something that I think that’s interesting here is that the figures were so thoroughly researched; you may see an historical figure you assumed to be a tall, strapping man—only to see that he seems somewhat short and tiny. That’s because, in the research that was done, artists relied on much more than a portrait to recreate their man (or woman!) You’ll see these people as they were, to the absolute best that careful historical delving could afford. And from what I’ve read on some of the subjects here, they’re pretty much so right on the nose. Noses. Yes, in wax.
                I love the place. It can—like most of the plantations we’ve talked about!—be rented for all kinds of events. Showers, rehearsal dinners, Christmas parties, you name it. Of course, it’s not a bed and breakfast—but they cater to all kinds of affairs and also, naturally, to school groups.
                If you decide to go, please make sure you call and check on the hours. Right now, to the best of my knowledge, it’s open Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays, from 10:00AM to 4:00PM. But, if you happen to be in the city on different days and really need to get in there—or if you have a group—you can call and try to set up an appointment. Also, for parties,
make sure you give yourself some leeway.
                Oh, wait! I think I said that I love (love, love, etc.) a good chamber of horrors. While the Musee Conti sets out to tell history and does it exceptionally well, it does offer a Haunted Dungeon!
                Ahha! So there.  (Chills and thrills!)
                If you have a chance, love history, love wax figures and excellent tableaus, try to find the time and get down there to see it. You can do so on Monday, Friday, or Saturday morning or afternoon, and save the rest of the day for another unique NOLA experience!
                Because it’s not open every day, you can call and check what’s going on at 504-525-2605. Their party rooms are absolutely lovely, too.
                Immerse yourself!
                And watch their eyes . . . .
                Maybe even envision the lights being out and the figures coming to life and . . . .
                Doesn’t have to be creepy! Imagine how cool it would be if you could sit down and have a conversation with Andrew Jackson!

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