Bruce Schultz, St. Romain, Rose Anne
MANSURA, La. – The Louisiana 4-H Museum officially opened Saturday (July 18) in this Avoyelles Parish town – the cradle of the state’s 4-H program.
More than 300 people crowded into the building that also houses the extension offices of the LSU AgCenter and Southern University Ag Center and the Avoyelles Commission of Tourism.
Saturday’s event also recognized 12 new inductees to the Louisiana 4-H Hall of Fame.
Museums often show the past, but this one displays the past, present and future, said Dr. Bill Richardson, LSU AgCenter chancellor.
“This museum is our dedication to the future,” he said.
Despite budget cuts, Richardson said, 4-H will be a priority.
“We’re going to continue to make sure we have a strong 4-H program in this state,” the LSU AgCenter chancellor said.
The museum is a testimony to the effect 4-H has on people’s lives, said Dr. Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor.
“This is a showcase for demonstrating how 4-H has provided an opportunity for youth to excel and develop into young adults,” Coreil said.
Rose Anne St. Romain, museum director, said the museum’s artifacts represent the intangible attributes of 4-H that have molded youngsters into adults.
“This museum documents that though the programs have changed over the years, what has remained consistent is the commitment to the child,” St. Romain said. “Behind every one of those items there is an experience, and those experiences are what collectively changed people.”
The museum includes vintage images and documents combined with high-tech exhibits.
The Hall of Fame area features a touch-sensitive screen with information and photos about individuals who have been selected into the hall. A digital presentation features the museum’s mascot, called “Frankie the 4-H Fox,” and the LSU AgCenter’s Character Critters, a set of cartoon characters who tell stories about character education.
The museum also features a three-dimensional miniature parade of 4-H projects and programs, a mural highlighting milestones in Louisiana 4-H and an entire wall dedicated to parish 4-H exhibits.
Many of the items on display have been donated or loaned to the museum as a result of a statewide request in a “scavenger hunt” for documents and memorabilia.
Joanne Bolding, a former 4-H’er and former volunteer leader from Oak Grove, is among those who donated items to the museum. She was inducted into the 4-H Hall of Fame in 2008.
She contributed her children’s record books that won national awards. Bolding said looking at the displays brought back a flood of memories.
“I see a lot of things that are very close to my heart,” Bolding said. “It’s good to have a place to come to see the past as well as the future.”
St. Romain said the museum’s displays will undergo continuous changes to show developments in new 4-H programs and to celebrate accomplishments of 4-H Clubs in the state. Some items are not ready to be shown, she said.
“We have many items that cannot be displayed yet because they are undergoing conservation measures to preserve them and to protect them from deterioration,” the museum director said.
Louisiana 4-H has its roots in Avoyelles Parish.
In 1908 300 boys gathered at Moreauville High School to learn new and better ways to plant corn (with a horse and plow). This Corn Club for boys was the first of its kind in Louisiana and was organized by administrators of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture, the Louisiana State Department of Education, the Avoyelles Parish School Board and Moreauville High School. By the end of 1908, 15 Corn Clubs for boys dotted Louisiana.
Within a few years, more agricultural project clubs for boys had formed, and clubs for girls were also under way. Such boys and girls clubs being organized nationwide eventually were collectively called 4-H Clubs. Today, the clubs offer much more than agriculture, with programs ranging from health and fitness to science, engineering and technology.
Individuals inducted into the Louisiana 4-H Hall of Fame in 2009 are Denise Turner of Lafayette Parish, Lafayette Fearn Swoope Jr. of Calcasieu Parish, John Stamper of Bossier Parish, Mansell Slaughter of East Baton Rouge Parish, Virginia Shehee of Caddo Parish, Billy Nutt of Bienville Parish, Marleen Mayfield of St. Bernard Parish, Nancy Marceaux of Vermilion Parish, Mable Lorenz of Beauregard Parish, Loretta Guidry of Lafourche Parish, C.L. Flowers of East Baton Rouge Parish and Diane Duhe of St. John Parish.
The museum is located at 8592 Louisiana Highway 1 in Mansura, and it is open from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.