La Salle's Legacy Subject of French Colonial Studies Annual Meeting

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Archeology

By Brad Jones, Collections Manager and Project Reviewer, THC Archeology Division

On November 22-24, the Center for French Colonial Studies held its 30th anniversary Annual Meeting at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, with the theme of “The Lasting Legacy of René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle from the St. Lawrence River Valley to the Gulf of Mexico.” Co-sponsored by the Bullock Museum, the THC, and The Friends of the THC, the meeting was organized by Michael Nassaney and retired THC Archeology Division Director Jim Bruseth. It was attended by about 90 members and interested individuals from across the country.

Friday afternoon provided participants a unique opportunity for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Bullock Museum with staff and guest curator Bruseth. Participants had the chance to see and discuss artifacts from La Belle, and learn about the ongoing preparations for the new La Belle exhibit that will include the installation of the ship’s hull on the first floor beginning in October 2014. That evening, a reception held at the museum was capped by a special presentation of a 4-D movie in the museum’s Spirit Theatre portraying La Salle’s tragic expedition to the Mississippi from the perspective of young survivor Pierre Talon.

On Saturday, the meeting showcased presentations on La Salle’s exploits and his legacy that extends from Canada (New France), down the Mississippi to the Gulf Coast, and on to Texas. Presenters included prominent historians and archeologists such as Paul Mapp, Jeff Seibert, Duane Esarey, Mark Walczynski, Michael Nassaney, Greg Waselkov, Patricia Galloway, William Foster, Robert Weddle, Juliana Barr, and Frank de la Teja (the entire list of presenters and their talks can be seen here). THC Archeology Division staff members Brad Jones and Amy Borgens also presented papers discussing recent interpretations of the archeological and archival records of La Belle. As the keynote speaker, Bruseth presented a discussion on the history and archeology of La Salle’s expedition to Texas and showcased the excavation of La Belle and the Bullock Museum’s new exhibit design.

Overall an overwhelming success, the conference wrapped up Sunday with a visit to the 1842 French Legation, a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, State Antiquities Landmark,  and National Register-listed property in East Austin.

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