Morehouse Parish has a story to tell, going all the way back to the days of European exploration.
When volunteers began working on a permanent historical timeline for the Snyder Museum, they faced an obvious challenge: To encapsulate the human story of Morehouse Parish in a form that could be easily accessible to museum visitors.
“We want to showcase parish history, and the timeline exhibit is going to help us do that,” said museum director Emily Graves. “The goal is to tell the Morehouse story through special milestones along the way, presented in chronological order and interspersed with historical images.”
Graves said the timeline concept began several years before the museum received a grant for the project from the Morehouse Parish Tourism Commission in 2010.
The first step was deciding which milestones to include in the timeline. Museum board member Walter Bonner, the author and Family History Club members developed the text for the exhibit, drawing from a variety of sources that included Mer Rouge native C.C. Davenport’s “Looking Backward: Memoirs of the Early Settlement of Morehouse Parish” as well as Enterprise and museum archival material.
“The story of Morehouse Parish is as interesting as that of any other place in the United States,” said Bonner. While doing the research, he said, “It seemed to easy to pick important moments in Morehouse history, because each even marked a decisive moment in the story.”
The timeline text then went to Joe Rolfe of Oak Ridge, who contributed additional milestones and is using a computer program called Canvas to design the exhibit panels.
“It’s taken some time shifting things around so that each of six panels fills the same amount of space,” said Rolfe. “Each panel starts off roughly the size of a sheet of paper, but of course we want to blow it up with large enough font so it can be read by a person standing in the museum.”
The completed exhibit will include six panels of text interspersed with historical images, with each panel to measure approximately 36 by 60 inches. The panels are divided into eras, from “Exploration and Early Settlement” through “Looking Forward,” a section named for Davenport’s memoir that will bring the viewer into the present time.
Spanning from French exploration of the region in the 1700s to the early development of the Brown Dense shale play in Morehouse Parish last year, the timeline will include both large and small political, economic and cultural events, as well as prominent natives such as Governor Luther Hall and coffee entrepreneur William C. Reily.
The images that will accompany the text are being compiled from a variety of sources, including the Louisiana State Museum and local collections.
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Graves said the location for the exhibit in the museum has not been determined yet. After the main exhibit is complete, she hopes to add revolving exhibits that will highlight the stories of individual communities in the parish.
She also hopes to incorporate physical artifacts into the exhibit, such as the countless historical items uncovered during the recent inventory of the Snyder Museum attic. This week volunteers have found everything from 1860s editions of the Louisiana Intelligencer — a Bastrop newspaper that predated the Enterprise — to a 1980s-era Bastrop-themed “Wheeler Dealer” board game.
Bonner said the timeline will be an important addition to the museum “because for the first time, the history will be arranged in an easy to follow format.” Although north Louisiana is seldom studied by history students, he said,
“Morehouse Parish has a story to tell. The timeline will serve as an educational tool so that students of Louisiana history can learn about the area that has the most resonance for them.”