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Documentation from the first Louisiana Legislature in 1812 can be found on the fifth floor of the State Library. (Credit:  Baileigh Rebowe) Documentation from the first Louisiana Legislature in 1812 can be found on the fifth floor of the State Library. (Credit: Baileigh Rebowe)
Rows of papers on Louisiana Legislature and laws dating back to the 1800s line the shelves of the Louisiana Floor at the State Library. (Credit: Baileigh Rebowe) Rows of papers on Louisiana Legislature and laws dating back to the 1800s line the shelves of the Louisiana Floor at the State Library. (Credit: Baileigh Rebowe)
A book with a visible Civil-War bullet hole was donated to the Louisiana Collection at the State Library by the owner’s family. (Credit:  Baileigh Rebowe) A book with a visible Civil-War bullet hole was donated to the Louisiana Collection at the State Library by the owner’s family. (Credit: Baileigh Rebowe)

By Baileigh Rebowe | LSU Student

In celebrating Louisiana's bicentennial, it doesn't get any better than navigating the extensive collection of the state's history and culture in the fifth-floor Louisiana Department at the State Library in Baton Rouge. Thousands of books, newspapers, magazines, films, maps and more than 10,000 photographs line walls, cover tables and fill cabinets waiting to be looked at.

It's a history buff's dream. And, in a way, it's like one of those best-kept-secrets attractions.

The fifth floor of the library houses contains "basically, anything you can think of on Louisiana or by a Louisiana author" said Charlene Bonnette, head of the department. Most items are donated by state agencies and families; nothing is thrown out.

The collection has reports from almost every state department dating back to the 1800s. Maps of Louisiana cities, pictures of the Old State Capitol Building, navigation charts, church, census and military records are available.

There is an extensive list of immigrants, as well as documentation of Louisiana Confederate Soldiers. Information on the Civil Rights movement, antebellum Louisiana and an anthology of narratives written by slaves can be accessed.

Those are interested in discovering their family histories, rows of papers on ancestry, detailed home and business records, and yearbooks make the department a solid starting point for geneology investigations.

The floor was recently given a collection of personal books and scrapbooks of Huey Long. There's a book which shielded a doctor from a bullet on the old Capitol building's steps during the Civil War.

First edition books by famous Louisiana author Earnest Gaines are part of the Louisiana compilation. There are even books for children.

Stations are set up throughout the floor to allow visitors to work and navigate through the material.

"People see us as a depository on all things Louisiana," said State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton. "They know things are safe with us. Our collection is very special and currently we're trying to make it available to anyone. The uniqueness of the resources is significant."

Anyone can access the materials Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m and do not need a library card. The digital library containing most of the collection's photographs can be accessed at: www.louisianadigitallibrary.org.

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