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Old U.S. Mint in New Orleans reopens Saturday with gold exhibit

Section: Daily Dispatches

By Stacey Plaisance
Associated Press
via Yahoo News
Tuesday, October 16, 2007

NEW ORLEANS -- The Old U.S. Mint in New Orleans is reopening to the public for the first time since Hurricane Katrina with an exhibit this weekend that couldn't be more fitting: "Gold."

The Old U.S. Mint made millions of silver and gold coins while in operation in the French Quarter between 1838 and 1909. The mint is now part of the Louisiana State Museum, which consists of a host of historic landmarks that house artifacts and collections of art.

On Tuesday curators worked diligently in the old building to prepare the hundreds of gold nuggets, coins, jewelry pieces and other objects that will be showcased beginning Saturday. The exhibit runs through Jan. 2.

Items on display for a media preview included an 1887 Mardi Gras Rex pin in the shape of a crown and a broach made in France in the late 19th century of gold and woven human hair.

"There are some incredibly beautiful things in this collection, remarkable things," said Sue Fischer, a curator for the Louisiana State Museum working with a team from the American Museum of Natural History, which sent the exhibit to New Orleans.

After showing in New Orleans, the exhibit will move to Denver, followed by Chicago and Atlanta.

The exhibit includes dozens of natural gold specimens, including a 108-pound boulder containing more than 22 pounds of crystalline gold, more than 100 cultural objects and hundreds of gold bars and coins.

The exhibit also includes a gold treasure box recovered from a 1715 shipwreck off the coast of Florida, an 18-karat gold baby rattle, and a few of the millions of coins minted at the Old U.S. Mint when it was in operation in New Orleans between 1838 and 1909.

The mint has been closed since Katrina ripped off large sections of the building's copper roof. It took more than two years and more than $5 million to repair the roof and rain damage and move the mint's jazz history collection -- including a cornet played by Louis Armstrong -- to a safe location.

The collection will eventually be moved back into the mint, said David Kahn, director of the Louisiana State Museum.

Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, among Tuesday's guests at the mint to get a look at how the exhibit is shaping up, said the reopening of the mint is another post-Katrina triumph.

"Museums are a very crucial component in our cultural economy," said Landrieu, whose office oversees the state's Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism, which includes the State Museum.

Some modern gold objects are on loan from celebrities. Among them: Harrison Ford's "Lifetime Achievement" Golden Globe from 2002, Tom Brokaw's Emmy for his 2004 news documentary "The Death and Funeral of Ronald Wilson Reagan," and Susan Sarandon's 1996 best actress Academy Award for "Dead Man Walking."

Other modern gold objects in the exhibit include a Faberge egg with gold scrollwork, a vanity box made by Cartier for actress Mary Pickford, a necklace made of gold coins from the jeweler Bulgari, and a brooch designed by Paloma Picasso for Tiffany & Co.


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Old U.S. Mint

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