Museum expansions, new exhibits for Big Easy

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NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans is an exciting city for many reasons, including its museums, which offer exhibits to suit a variety of client interests. Following are some of the latest additions to museums in the city:

• Expansion at Ogden Museum. When it opens its new addition at the end of the summer, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art claims it will house the largest collection of its kind, focusing on visual arts of the American South and showcasing the past, present and future of Southern culture.

The 67,000-square-foot museum at 925 Camp St. will include a new, five-story contemporary building (Stephen Goldring Hall), which will have a Terrace Garden on the fifth level overlooking the New Orleans skyline and three floors of exhibition space for 20th- and 21st-century collections as well as national traveling exhibitions.

The complex also includes the restored Patrick F. Taylor Library and the Clementine Hunter Education Wing. For more information, call (504) 539-9600 or visit www.ogdenmuseum.org.

• Sculpture and Pharaohs at NOMA: The New Orleans Museum of Art is putting the final touches on a sculpture garden.

When completed on June 15, the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, adjacent to the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park, will have 42 sculptures in a five-acre garden that is already home to 100-year-old oak trees, pines, magnolias and camellias.

Reclining Mother and Child, a bronze sculpture by Henry Moore, will be on display at NOMA. The sculptures, valued at more than $25 million, include works by 20th-century artists Henry Moore, George Rickey, Jacques Lipchitz and George Segal. The garden will be open to the public at no charge.

Also new to the museum this year is the four-month visit of a large Egyptian exhibit starting Oct. 18.

"The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt" is billed as the largest exhibition of ancient Egyptian artifacts ever to tour North America, and New Orleans is the show's first Southern stop.

Exhibits, which will take up the museum's entire first floor, range from a life-size re-creation of a pharaoh's tomb to a miniature yacht in which a buried pharaoh could cruise the Nile for eternity. For more information, call (504) 488-2631 or visit www.noma.org.

• "Living Fossils" at the Botanical Garden. The New Orleans Botanical Garden opened its Conservatory of the Two Sisters, the first phase of a $4 million improvement project.

The Conservatory includes the Living Fossils wing, where plants and their fossil ancestors are displayed side by side, and a Tropical Forest Room, featuring a waterfall that visitors can walk behind.

"The goal was to create an educational facility for both young and old," said Genevieve Trimble, president of the New Orleans Botanical Garden Foundation. "This will be no ordinary conservatory. It will house the largest collection of exotic plants in the Gulf South area."

For more information, call (504) 483-9386 or visit www.neworleanscitypark.com/garden.

• Nature in Bloom at the Audubon. The Audubon Nature Institute, an organization that operates several museums and attractions in New Orleans, began work on a 30,000-square-foot insect museum, which will make its home on the first floor of a Civil War-era customs house.

Construction of the $10 million facility is expected to wrap up by the fall of 2004.

Exhibits will include "Insects of New Orleans," "Louisiana Swamp," "Butterflies in Flight," "Prehistoric Wonders" and even a "Cooking Show," where professional chefs (live and on video) demonstrate recipes from around the world that use insects.

For a sneak peek at the exhibit, visit www.auduboninstitute.org/insect/index.htm.

The Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, meanwhile, has debuted a forest exhibit at its renovated Discovery Loft. Each exhibit illustrates the diversity of forest life, from the wide variety of animals that call it home to photosynthesis.

Exhibits include a three-foot model of a garden spider perched in its web and a simulated leaf with water flowing through it. Within the hollow of a large replica of a tree, visitors can see puppet shows, find hidden bird eggs and other surprises.

The Audubon Louisiana Nature Center is located off Read Boulevard in New Orleans East.

Also new from the Audubon Institute is an IMAX movie commemorating the Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial. The Entergy IMAX Theater at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is presenting "Lewis and Clark: The Great Journey West."

The movie will highlight the expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who explored the uncharted territory to find a water passageway to the Pacific Ocean.

The two captains led 31 people, including a native American woman and her infant son, on a 4,000-mile trek from the mouth of the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean and back.

For more information about the Audubon Institute, visit www.auduboninstitute.org.

• The Musee Conti Wax Museum. Visitors now not only can see but hear history unfold, as new technology enables them to press a button and listen to a brief background of the exhibit before them, followed by dialogue between the characters depicted. With more than 33 sets, the interactive sound system helps to provide a history of New Orleans.

The museum, located in the French Quarter, is a-block-and-a-half from Bourbon Street.

For more information, call (800) 233-5405 or visit www.get-waxed.com.

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