Destination Louisiane: LSU’s Rural Life Museum sends visitors back in time

Destination Louisiane

BATON ROUGE, La. (BR Proud) — Travelers looking for a safe and socially-distanced Louisiana staycation should look no further than LSU’s Rural Life Museum. Situated on approximately 450 acres, the museum was ranked one of the top ten outdoor museum’s in the world by British Museum.

The museum is situated at the corner of Interstate 10 and Essen Lane, in the heart of the Capital City. Director Bill Stark said, “it’s ten minutes from home, and 100 miles away in your mind.” Visitors travel back in time to the 18th and 19th centuries while touring more than 30 life-size buildings, each with its own connection to Louisiana history.

Perhaps the most seasoned volunteer Elaine Ellis, oversees the grounds’ kitchen during live artisan demonstrations. “We can cook anything in this kitchen that you can cook in your kitchen,” Ellis said. Often with a helping hand, Ellis shows curious onlookers how an open flame provides an array of heat sources for varied fare, including rotisserie chicken, sausage links and brandy-infused French toast with lemon zest.

Stark’s daughter Elly called the museum one of her favorite places. “This is how we should learn about the 1800’s,” said the primary school student.

Her father is new to his position, however Elly’s experiences on-site would tell you otherwise. She recounted learning in the school house and grinding coffee in the kitchen. Most recently, she helped make candles by feeding wicks through a metal form with copper wire. “They had to work a lot to be sure that they could survive,” said Elly. “It sounded like it might have been kind of hard.”

Staff member David Nicolosi routinely tends to the blacksmith shop during artisan demonstrations. “It’s a little darker in here because when the blacksmith is working metal, he wants to be able to see the color,” Nicolosi said.

Carrie Couvillon doubles as the gift shop manager and a live demonstrator. Visitors can find her pouring hot wax for candles, even on the hottest of Louisiana days. Couvillon said there are many things she enjoys about her job, but interacting with the public is at the top of the list. “I get to meet people from all over the world as they come through the door,” Couvillon said.

This season marks the 50th anniversary of the Rural Life Museum. Starks said they have added additional special events to the calendar in celebration.

Throughout October and November, live artisan demonstrations are scheduled on the grounds every Wednesday and Friday. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the public is invited to see firsthand how early Louisianans lived day-to-day. Students opting for virtual and hybrid fall learning are also invited to come out with a caretaker.

One of the most popular annual events at the Rural Life Museum is Harvest Days. From 8 a.m. to 5p.m. on Oct. 3, artisans will be stationed across the grounds demonstrating the activities that took place during harvest time in the 1800’s. Regular admission rates apply.

Staff also said Haints, Haunts and Halloween is a well-attended festivity. On Oct. 25, children (and adults) are encouraged to dress up in costume and visit the museum for storytelling sessions, cake walks, games and trick or treating. Admission is $5 per person.

Finally, ‘A Rural Life Christmas’ allows patrons to ring in the Christmas season with a 19th century celebration. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., admission prices are $10 per person and kids ages 10 and younger are free. At dusk, a bonfire will be lit and Papa Noel will make a special appearance.

Visit the Rural Life Museum’s website for additional special events.

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