West Baton Rouge Museum: Great Place for Dulcimer Workshops

What is Dan Delancey doing teaching a guitar class in a room full of aprons at a dulcimer festival? The West Baton Rouge Museum is perhaps “off the beaten track” but it has been very gracious in hosting many of our dulcimer and related musical instrument workshop classes.

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Our dulcimer fete is headquartered at the Port Allen Community Center. The classes spill over into the museum next door. It has worked out well to hold workshops there. In the process, we have come to appreciate the historical significance of the museum. Here’s a fiddle class taught by Gina Forsyth in the “Brick Gallery.”

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Here Quintin Stephens gives instruction in another room of the museum.

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The museum is operated by the West Baton Rouge Historical Association in the midst of the community of Port Allen across the river from Baton Rouge. Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, this rural part of the country is full of history; plantations, sugar mills and nature. If you have a chance to visit us; it’s worth a visit to the museum as guides tell about the history of this river parish.

The museum has many community activities including summer camps and a fall sugar cane festival. It also has revolving touring exhibits and we find a different one each spring.

This year’s exhibit is called, “The Apron Chronicles, A Patchwork of American Recollections.” According to the Associaton’s Website: “Touring since 2004, Apron Chronicles presents the American experience through 50 photographic stories and an outstanding collection of 100 vintage aprons.” (http://www.westbatonrougemuseum.org/) The aprons bring back memories and fill the rooms and halls! The museum’s curator has added local touches including a blacksmith’s apron and chef’s apron. Here is Larry Conger teaching a workshop with a backdrop of some of the photos.

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The museum is located in the old parish courthouse. The old building has thick walls and pillars. Here are some dulcimer players jamming in 2004 on the front steps of the museum. The museum underwent an expansion after this, increasing in size and number of meeting rooms. We meet in a variety of rooms and, in good weather, on the front steps.

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Over the years the West Baton Rouge Historical Association has moved old and significant buildings from around the parish to the grounds of the museum including slave cabins, circa 1830 French Creole Aillet House, shotgun house, and most recently, an old barn. Several rooms in the barn have added much needed workshop space. Here are two “non-players” enjoying the morning and music and waiting for a workshop to end.

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Linda Thomas and Dan Delancey taught a class, “Plays Well With Others,” in one of the rooms of the barn. The mountain dulcimer players had to change keys from G, to Dm to D on the fly–and without any dulcimer tab! Did we play well with others? Hum.

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The fete is headquartered at the Community Center. The stage is the center attraction with jams, concerts and mini-concerts. Do you remember these folks from 2004?

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Each dulcimer festival has it’s own personality. We are fortunate to have ours located in the quiet, rural town of Port Allen along the Mississippi River and hosted by the Community Center and Historical Associaton’s Museum. It’s a little “off the beaten track.” But at the next fete, take time to visit the museum, go on a fascinating tour and learn about the history of this parish and check out the rotating exhibit.

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