About Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum

In recent years there has been a growing recognition that America's maritime heritage has not been as well documented or studied as the history they can see represented by bricks and mortar. The Historic American Buildings Survey, for example, a massive effort begun in the days of the Depression to put artists and draftsmen to work, has recorded in measured drawings of great beauty and detail much of the existing stock of buildings which have meaning for their history. Only recently have there been efforts to find and record the documents and artifacts which define us as a nation born from the sea and risen to greatness by the use of oceans and rivers.

In the rivers which flow into Lake Pontchartrain, and in the Lake itself, there is a record of the coming of the European and the native peoples which preceeded him and of the ebb and flow of commerce, war, industry and culture which followed. This record is largely unstudied and untouched. Since Iberville's voyage of discovery in March of 1699, three hundred years ago, this watery basin of swamp, bayou and lake has been unified by water transportation and the evidence thereof is around us, out of sight and inaccessible to the inhabitants. It is known that literally hundreds of watercraft from all eras and of all types lie in the silt of their river bottoms. Shipyards, brick kilns, lumberyards and landing places for all manner of farmed and manufactured goods line the banks of their waterways. The work of discovery and documentation has scarcely begun.

Over the centuries, populations have entered, moved through, settled, moved on, been absorbed or vanished from their basin. People on the move need to establish their identity with their new place, their new neighbors and their past. St. Tammany Parish, the fastest growing parish in the state, has a particularly acute need to make the past accessable to its new citizens. Oral traditions and scanty written records need to be supplemented with scholarship and careful preservation of the cultural talismans that remain. The newly arrived family deserves to be put in touch with the generations that have gone before in this place.

In addition to newly arrived settlers, their Lake Pontchartrain Basin is a natural destination for visitors from the world who will not stay but will have fun while here and will take away a lasting cultural enrichment. Old New Orleans is only the inner layer of a much larger and more complex tourist experience in South Louisiana. One can envision an unbroken chain of attractions around their Lake Ponthartrain, encompassing historic sites, sports opportunities such as the Tammany Trace, convention facilities and amusements. The exciting prospects for the naturalist alone are staggering: from Manchac Swamp to the Tchefuncte River to Honey Island. The historian, amateur or academic, must pause at Goose Point near Lacombe, where Iberville and his party of exploration spent the mosquito-filled night of 28 March 1699, the first white tourists on the north shore of the lake.

For all these reasons - educated tourism, cultural continuity, a rebirth of interest in their maritime heritage, and a wealth of historic material that needs interpretation and protection—the idea of a Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum seems profoundly appropriate. They see a point of focus for a reinvigorated effort to recapture their past. They see the scope as being regional: delineated by the boundaries of a great natural feature, the Basin, rather than the constructs of their political life, city or parish lines.

The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum, Inc. is an IRS 501 C (3) non-profit organization. Their mission is to provide an education and research center to collect, interpret, and preserve the maritime and cultural history and artifacts of the Lower Mississippi River Basin for public benefit.