Hurricane Katrina Relief Provided by the Acadian Museum
Did you know? The Acadian Museum, located 20 miles south of Lafayette and 15 miles west of New Iberia at 203 S. Broadway, Erath, Louisiana 70533 is hosting several families, who lost everything and were displaced by the hurricane Katrina. Donations may be sent: Acadian Museum PO Box 53597 Lafayette, Louisiana 70505. Or, contact their Board Chairman, Warren Perrin for added information.
*** Updates ***
Hurricane Rita floods, damage The Acadian Museum
09/30/2005: The Acadian Museum itself has been devastated by Hurricane Rita. Erath is under two feet of water, and the museum lost everything under the 15 inch line.
10/03/2005: Warren Perrin advises… “We had 2 families at our museum Annex but it’s destroyed– received about 4 ft. of water. They are now in a shelter in Abbeville, but we are still providing them with transportation and material support.”
Marines, who were still rescuing residents from rooftops and porches, gave Perrin one truck and one hour. The water in front of the museum was 30 inches deep when he and three assistants pulled up.
ERATH, La — Less than 24 hours after Hurricane Rita left his hometown under water, Warren Perrin arrived to salvage what he could of the Acadian Museum he founded 15 years ago.
“You just didn’t have time to be heartbroken,’ Perrin said. ‘We had to decide what to take and what to leave behind. For a while, we were all paralyzed.”
His team grabbed as many of the museum’s oldest one-of-a-kind originals as it could pack, including navigational maps, paintings, and artifacts that date from as far back as the 17th century. It also took piles of blankets and vintage clothes from a collection of 1 9th-century homespun goods that women from southwestern Louisiana had produced.
As for everything else the recovery team left behind, Perrin just had to hope for the best.
There are four museums about the Acadian people in Louisiana, but the one in this town of 2,200, about 150 miles west of New Orleans, has by far the largest collection of artifacts and offers the most comprehensive account of the 400-year history of an ethnic group forcibly deported by the British from what is now Nova Scotia. The Acadians resettled in Louisiana, where they came to be called Cajuns.
Two weeks after Rita struck on Sept. 24, about 2,000 items were heaped on a dusty lot beside the museum to be discarded. In the pile were an antique typewriter, a battery-operated phonograph, and three drawers of files packed with genealogy charts, old photos, and other family memorabilia.
“What we found was mold taking off throughout the whole collection,” said Catherine Anderson, a Virginia conservator who served as a member of a team from the Association for State and Local History that has done an assessment of the museum’s holdings.
Within three days of Rita, Perrin had cleared out all the mud, applied a bleach solution to the floors, set up dehumidifiers and an industrial fan, and turned on an air conditioner to full blast.
The museum, a nonprofit that charges no admission, will need funds for restoring damaged items, creating new displays for exhibits, and adding storage space~ The utility bills will be considerable, and the walls may need to be torn down because tests have found they are still full of water.
Perrin said he is just glad to have saved the museum’s most valuable items.
Those exhibits are in the Acadian Room, which tells the story of Le Grand Derangement, Britain’s mass expulsion of the French Catholic settlers from Acadia, which began with a deportation order in 1755.
New England played a major role in this history, if not a positive one. The British said they feared the Acadians would fight for France in a struggle for control of the Canadian territories. But Perrin and other historians assert the true impetus came from the New England colonists, who were envious of the Acadians’ fertile farmland and lucrative trading.
“People think the soldiers Iwho enforced the expulsion order] came from England,” said Perrin. “They didn’t. They came from Boston.”
The first shipload of 2,000 deportees landed in Massachusetts Bay, but was then sent along to points down the eastern seaboard as far south as Savannah, Ga.
In the end, some 900 Acadians settled in Massachusetts. Among their descendents is Bruce W. Caissie, a Northbridge resident who is now president of the Fitchburg-based Acadian Cultural Society. Caissie said his organization, a national group that has 400 members, has raised $500 for museum repairs. Cultural societies of Maine, Quebec, and France have contributed a total of about $3,500, Perrin said.
Perrin helped revive interest in Acadian history when, in January 1990, he sent a petition to Britain’s prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, and Queen Elizabeth II demanding redress for Le Grand Derangement. Perrin, a lawyer, had filed a class action lawsuit, and given the Crown 30 days to respond.
In December 2003, after 12 years of negotiations, the queen agreed to declare July 28, the day the deportation order was signed, a Day of Remembrance. The proclamation put off the first observance until July 28, 2005, exactly 250 years from the original date of the order.
When Remembrance Day arrived this summer, ceremonies were held throughout the three Maritime
Provinces of Canada, and in Boston, where the Acadian Cultural Society raised the Acadian flag over City
To further supplement funding for recovery, Perrin is applying for a grant that would allow local school children to reconstruct the museum and create an exhibit documenting their communities’ experiences in hurricanes Rita and Katrina.
Perrin said a $10,000 grant from the History Channel and the Association for State and Local History would put the children in touch with the major theme of Acadian history: survival.
“This is just the latest chapter in a history that challenges us to keep the culture alive,” he said. “This storm is just part of that 250-year struggle that we just finished commemorating.”
I am very grateful to Warren Perrin for having provided me copy of this article, written by Julien Gorbach and published in the October 23, 2005 edition of the Boston Globe Newspaper.