September 1, 2005

Katrina and the museums

Once Hurricane Katrina's flood waters have receded, the dead have been buried, and the clean-up has begun, the people of Louisiana and Mississippi may face yet another devastating blow: the destruction of cherished artworks and historical documents.

In Biloxi, Miss., for instance, Beauvoir, the former home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, has been badly damaged, officials said ["virtually demolished" in the words of the AAM report below]. . .

The buildings that make up the Louisiana State Museums sustained some damage, but "the collections are in better shape than feared," according to curator Tamra Carboni, who is quoted on the American Association of Museums Web site.

The New Orleans Museum of Art, which sits on high ground and a raised foundation, survived the hurricane and flood, but its director, John Bullard, is worried about the sculpture garden. And the Ogden Museum of Southern Art initially was reported to be unscathed -- but that was before the levees broke and communications ceased.

As this article points out, however, New Orleans itself is a heritage site of incalculable value.
New Orleans, frequently described as the most European city in America, has more than 40 museums, including the Musee Conti Wax Museum, Historic Voodoo Museum and Historic New Orleans Collection, a treasure trove of fragile maps, photographs and other antique documents.

And that doesn't count the privately owned Gitter-Yelen Art Study Center, with its collection of Japanese art from the 17th through the 19th centuries.

A few days before Katrina hit, New Orleans' museums sent out e-mail messages to institutions in other cities requesting emergency storage space, according to Laura Lindsay, interim executive director of the Louisiana State University Museum of Art. "A lot of work was done to get art in safe places before the hurricane came through," she said.

The American Association of Museums hurricane news site is here; much uncertainty still. On one hand we see the Aquarium of the Americas "lost only one fish and he had been sick before the hurricane hit"; at the same time, we read that the USS Alabama is listing 8 degrees to port. And much of the news is prior to the flooding . . . .

Posted by David on September 1, 2005 9:03 AM


Please do not forget to mention the National D-Day Museum which is located in downtown New Orleans. Not quite fine art, but important nonetheless.

Posted by: Paolo on September 1, 2005 1:04 PM

Initial reports on the D-Day museum aren't good. It seems to have been looted and vandalized. See:

Look under New Orleans: Confederate Memorial Hall Update
"A major concern remains security. His reports indicate that the National D-Day museum directly across the street from the Confederate Museum has been "gutted and trashed by looters.""

Posted by: Dana on September 1, 2005 9:28 PM

Is there any confirmation about the post-Katrina conditions of the National D-Day Museum? Was it flooded? Was it "trashed and looted"?

Would appreciate any references, Photos, URLs, newspaper accounts of the impact of Katrina on this important museum.

Also, any calls for volunteers to help cleanup the anticipated mess there...

Much Oblige,
Executive Dir
Washington Study Center on the Military in Media
West Bethesda, Maryland

Posted by: G. Liao on September 3, 2005 6:22 AM

PLEASE update on the D-Day Museum!
The only thing I can find anywhere is that it has been looted. As far as I am concerned, whoever looted and vandalized it should be shot. People don't have any respect for history and what our veterans did for us. Please, please update on how the D-Day Museum is. Thank you.

Posted by: Robyn on September 3, 2005 1:02 PM

ABSOLUTE IDIOCY that anyone would harm a museum like the D-Day museum! those men fought and died for this country at D-day so bastards like the people that looted it could live freely not steal irreplacable pieces of history!

Posted by: Justin Martin on September 4, 2005 12:27 AM

The Civil War Interactive site now has an aerial photo from 9/2 of both the D-Day museum and Confederate Hall up. It shows no flooding around the buildings and the roofs intact.

Posted by: Dana on September 4, 2005 7:32 AM

I imagined a bunch of WWII veterans camping out in the auditorium with M-1's and a few Garands at the ready, making sure that any attack by looters would have been their last. No jury in the country would have convicted them. "Honest, Judge, I thought they were Krauts!"

Posted by: Paul Whitman on September 4, 2005 10:21 AM

I'm glad that there was no flooding and that the building is still intacted looking in the ariel-view. I still wish I knew how bad of damage those damn looters did to the D-Day Museum. I wish somebody had been gaurding the building. I just feel like the whole situation is a slap in the face to the WWII veterans. I don't understand why anyone would do such a thing. Any new information about the D-Day Museum would be appreciated. Thank you.

Posted by: Robyn on September 4, 2005 3:09 PM

I am sick to hear of any looting of the d-day museum..Most of those artifacts can never be replaced and others will cost a fortune to replace..I visited the museum the summer of 2003. It was fantastic. I hope Tom Hanks, and Steven Speilberg can rally attention to this issue after the relief efforts have ceased and the city is on the road to recovery. God bless all the evacuees and the poor victims of this tragedy.

Posted by: Greg on September 4, 2005 3:33 PM

Saddend and sickend by the initial reports of the D-Day Museum being "looted and trashed." If anyone has first-hand knowledge of the true extent of the damage, please email me.

Our hearts and prayers to the people impacted by Katrina.

Posted by: Eric Aton on September 4, 2005 6:32 PM

Anyone that looted the D-Day Museum should return
the items.

Posted by: john on September 5, 2005 10:20 AM

I've visited the D-Day Museum twice; it's a treasure. Stephen Ambrose must be twirling in his grave. A fitting defense of the structure and its artifacts would have been 500 members of the 101st parachuting in to take over.

Posted by: tom on September 5, 2005 6:18 PM

I've been trying to find information on the status of the D-Day Museum by emailing the webmaster on the D-Day website. I still haven't heard anything yet. I've been contributing here and there and it really upsets me that people looted the museum. It's a huge slap in the face to us veterans, especially the WWII vets!

Posted by: Romeo on September 6, 2005 5:49 PM

As a suggestion, everyone should keep an eye out on ebay for anyone from that region trying to sell/fence "genuine" D-Day items.

Posted by: Scott on September 6, 2005 6:52 PM

Still haven't found anything more on the D-Day museum. Trying different websites to see if anyone knows anything. I'll be sure to keep a lookout for any possible D-Day Museum items being sold on eBay. I hope someone is there now standing guard to protect it.

Posted by: Anonymous on September 6, 2005 7:09 PM

From what I heard, the looting was mostly limited to the gift shop of the museum. I hope this is true.

Posted by: Anonymous on September 6, 2005 10:12 PM

D-Day Museum Condition: Received email from New Orleans Police Officer that many paper documents are ruined or missing, but the "heavy metal" on the ground floor is o.k.

Posted by: brad Byers on September 7, 2005 2:51 PM

Also seeking information on the D Day Museum. Hope to hear some good news soon. I visited in summer of 2004 and thought it was simply amazing.

Posted by: Eric on September 7, 2005 10:45 PM

The National D-Day Museum is fine. No flood damage. No looting.

For more information, click here or here.

Posted by: Free Frank Warner on September 8, 2005 3:33 AM

It would be nice for the museum board to post a statement on the website. Seems like the least they could do.

You know, I kept looking for looters toting MG42s and Panzerfausts. :-)

Mike Vanderboegh
Pinson, AL

Posted by: Mike Vanderboegh on September 8, 2005 9:37 AM

Heard from a guy who's wife is a Big Easy cop. She said that the large pavilion windows on the main level of the DDay museum are intact. She so far heard of no looting there from her other co-workers on the force and the buildings that were damaged to any extent are the buildings that were to be demolished for the D-Day museum expansion anyway. Hopefully this is for sure the case. She said that most looting took place in the business district and in some residential areas--not quite as widespread as the media made it seem. She's been on 20 hr days and will be coming home in a few days for some R&R. Maybe I'll hear more then.

Posted by: John on September 8, 2005 1:40 PM

Glad to hear that the D-Day museum is safe! Still like the idea of the 101st taking care of the "looting" problem in New Orleans!!

Posted by: Thomas on September 8, 2005 2:17 PM

Great news! This museum is one that I want to take my daughter to someday to explain the sacrifice of D Day - she is 2 right now.

Posted by: Eric on September 8, 2005 3:43 PM

I sent an inquiry to a museum employee, Cindy McCurdy, and received this back:


The Museum is high and dry and sustained only minor wind damage from the storm. We do intend to reopen. We are awaiting for power to return to the downtown area so that staff can get in and begin our work. We have reports that the National Guard have established a perimeter around the Museum so I think we're in good shape.

We'll be updating our website in the next day or so. Kepp an eye on it - we'll be using it to update staff and the general public.

Thanks for your concern.

Posted by: Jason Elliott on September 8, 2005 6:04 PM

I have been trying to find information about a friend, Nick Mueller, who is the President of the D Day museum, and his wife, Beth. Does anyone know if they are OK and where they might be?

Posted by: John Sibert on September 9, 2005 12:41 AM

I'm trying to contact Martin Morgan, research director at the D-Day Museum. If you can reach him directly or know anyone else who can, please email me ASAP.

Posted by: Steve on September 9, 2005 1:11 AM

Will the planned 60th anniversary of WW II conference (October 2005) at the D-Day Museum now be moved to another city, another state?

Posted by: john on September 10, 2005 2:35 AM

I am deeply saddened by reports of "trashing and looting" of the National D Day Museum.

I am hoping for the best (some of the recent reports are hopeful) since I know there have been many false reports of looting and many true reports in the N.O. area. So I still have no way of knowing, for sure, if the reports are true or false.

I am still looking for something authoratative on this issue.

Thank God this gem suffered little damage from Katrina.

Posted by: Patrick Mauro on September 10, 2005 4:28 PM

I was a pathfinder navigator with the 8th Air Force. I donated the chart I used leading the 381st Bomb Group attacking enemy defenders of Gold Beach and was proud to see it on display last summer. Now, I fear it has been trashed by senseless vandalism. How sad that this, and thousands of other irreplacable mementos, should be lost to a mindless mob of idiots.

Posted by: John Howland on September 10, 2005 5:27 PM

Cindy McCurdy at the D-Day Museum says that Nick Mueller and Marty Morgan are fine. The D-Day Museuem staff is fine, too, except that several of them have lost their homes.

Posted by: Frank Warner on September 12, 2005 12:16 AM
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