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New Orleans mint plans exhibits

Because of damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, the museum
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Damage from Hurricane Katrina to the old U.S. mint in New Orleans won?t be fixed for some time.

So the museum?s numismatic collection has been relocated to an offsite location.

?Repairs to the roof have already begun and should be complete in the next month,? said Greg Lambousy, director of collections for the Louisiana State Museum. ?Interior areas damaged by water and repairs to the exterior of the building will likely take somewhere between two and three years to complete.?

Work to repair water-damaged areas will begin soon, according to Lambousy.

?Also, the opportunity will be taken to repair other areas of the building that were in need of attention previous to the hurricane, both interior and exterior,? said Lambousy.

Before the hurricane struck in late August, museum officials were planning to open a new coin exhibit in November 2005.

?We have a number of really exciting loans and donations for gold and silver coinage of the New Orleans Branch Mint and we still plan to install the displays once the repairs are complete,? said Lambousy. ?We also plan to reinstall an expanded version of the new New Orleans Mint history exhibit.?

The gold and silver coinage exhibit will include displays of coins minted by the New Orleans facility, which ceased producing coinage in 1909. Documents related to everyday operations of the coining department will also be featured.

Among the attractions are a small coin press said to have been purchased from the mint and later owned by Mardi Gras doubloon maker Alvin Sharp, and a section on counterfeit coins, which will include an 1857 half dollar counterfeiting device.

Negotiations are in the works to bring a loan of 75 gold and silver coins from the New Orleans branch of the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta to the museum.

The museum hopes to secure donations of a number of gold coins and artifacts from the wreck of the SS Republic, which sunk en route to New Orleans from New York in 1865 in a hurricane.

Also, New Orleans-area coin collector Rick Demers loaned his complete date collection of New Orleans Mint silver coinage to the museum, and Gobrecht Journal editor John McCloskey provided a complete index of coins minted by the New Orleans facility.

Currently, the museum has a unique 1861-O half dollar once owned by the du Pont family. It is on loan from Robert LeNeve of Boynton Beach, Fla. He also donated $500 and two half dollars, an 1858-O and an 1884-O.

Other contributors include Frank Patty, Mark Sheldon, Robert B. Lecce, and Lynn Ourso, who is also helping the museum prepare a medallion for the celebration of the Louisiana State Museum centennial in 2006. Plans include a depiction of the New Orleans Mint on the reverse.

Lambousy said the museum was lucky in that damage was confined to public areas like hallways and the auditorium, where most artifacts were not exhibited and stored.

?An exception was a holding area where a small percentage of the jazz collection was affected,? said Lambousy.

Artifacts affected by the hurricane have been cared for by the staff at the Louisiana Special Collections Division of the Hill Memorial Library at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and by the Louisiana State Archives.