exterior view

exterior view

The Old Courthouse Museum/Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Regional History Museum Project

A tourist may be disappointed in the lack of exhibits on display, unless they were coming to see artist renditions of the planned Sports Hall of Fame.  There were no other visitors during our visit.

The Courthouse Museum’s most compelling draw is the building itself. Its Richardsonian Romanesque features include a central tower, rounded arches and rough-faced oxblood brick. Inside the building has high ceilings, large internal transoms (vasistas, or rectangular shaped fanlights) built for ventilation before widespread use of electricity, doors perhaps 10 or 12’, molding, and other interesting architectural features like the circular stairs on the second floor.

Staircase in old courthouse

Staircase in old courthouse

steamboat from diorama

steamboat from diorama

Vault door- old courthouse

Vault door- old courthouse

The records vault now houses a nice collection of miniature models of historic Natchitoches, dioramas and dollhouses.  The staff was very helpful.

The Sports Hall of Fame and Regional History Museum will not be up and running until 2011. The museum would benefit from rotating displays and other public events between now and then.

 

 

The Natchitoches Parish Genealogical & Historical Association Library is located on the Second Floor of the Old Courthouse. The library keeps records and offers resources for the geographical area that was once Natchitoches County (1805).  These records include Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Claiborne, DeSoto, Grant, Red River, Vernon, Webster and Winn Parishes, in addition to present-day Natchitoches Parish.

Shirley Small-Rogeau

Shirley Small-Rogeau

Fern Christensen and Shirley Small-Rogeau guided us during our visit. The library was professional, especially for an all-volunteer operation. The space was clearly delineated from the remainder of the building, and the resources were organized well.

Volunteers offer assistance to those wishing to do genealogical research at the facility. The library had a number of resources, including court records, census roles, church documents, and numerous books on genealogical methods, as well as family genealogies.
Various 942351 172The volunteers working the day we visited explained that race, gender, and class make genealogical research more complex, and a variety of different tools must often be employed.

The Genealogical and Historical Society is dependent upon membership dues and donations. Members pay $15 per year, which includes subscription to the Natchitoches Genealogist.

My biggest concerns revolve around the use of technology.  The library does have computer work stations with CD ROM and internet access, including subscription services, but most of the resources are in hard copy only. The library has a minuscule online presence.

I like the idea that the library is run by a membership organization with hundreds of paid members. This is a rare phenomenon in this day. Will the membership model of the association be able to sustain the library through the 21st Century? More immediately, will the library be able to remain in its current location when the museum moves and the building once again faces adaptive re-use?

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