Visit two exhibitions devoted to two very different angles of Louisiana’s past and present, both housed in a remarkable building with a rich history.

Look for the distinctive arched windows of the stately Presbytère as you explore the French Quarter. Having served many different purposes over the years, this graceful building is now part of the Louisiana State Museum and houses two permanent exhibitions, one on the vibrant tradition of Mardi Gras and one on Hurricane Katrina. Check what is on during your visit, as temporary exhibitions on a wide range of topics are also held here regularly.

The Presbytère’s name suggests it was once a residence for monks, but though a Capuchin monastery did originally exist on this site, the current building has never been used for this purpose. Having once been privately owned, then a courthouse, it has now been a museum for well over a century. It was built after two fires, in 1788 and 1794, wreaked havoc on the area. Nearby, find one of the buildings affected, the beautiful Cabildo, which is now also a renowned museum. Look for the many similarities between the Presbytère and the reconstructed Cabildo, which were designed to be partner buildings.

Visit the museum’s two exhibitions to discover different sides to Louisiana’s character and history. In the Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond area, learn about the devastation wreaked by this disaster that is still fresh in the minds of most residents of New Orleans. Follow the story up to the present day through interactive displays that showcase the strength and resilience of the city of New Orleans.

Wander through the Mardi Gras: It’s Carnival Time in Louisiana exhibit to experience all the joy of Mardi Gras, the city’s famous annual festival. See fantastic costumes, extravagant floats and many other festival-related artifacts, including musical exhibits.

Find the Presbytère by looking for the tall spires of the gleaming white St. Louis Cathedral, which is located next door and which is impossible to miss when you are in the French Quarter. Admission to the Presbytère is free, which means you will have a little bit extra to spend on Mardi Gras-themed souvenirs in the museum’s fun and colorful gift shop.