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Unique Areas of Excellence:
Center for Louisiana and Deep South Studies
Established in 1973 as the Center for Louisiana Studies, this area of excellence is one of the oldest and most prestigious for research at the university. The initial charge to the Center was to plan, promote, and pursue programs, which provide scholars, students, and the public with a better understanding of Louisiana history and culture. The earliest activities of the Center were divided into three major areas: acquisitions, research, and interpretation.

Complimenting the unique holdings of the Dupre Library, the Center developed three important collections in the 1970s in order to accomplish its mission. The Louisiana Colonial Records Collection focuses on the discovery, exploration, settlement, and development of the Mississippi Valley by colonial powers between 1682 and 1803. This collection is unique in bringing together over one million pages recording the French, English, Spanish and American struggle for control of the vast Louisiana territory. The Folklore and Folklife Collection was begun in 1974 and has produced the most comprehensive repository of recorded and transcribed materials in the world on French in Louisiana as well as in the Upper Mississippi Valley, French Canada, the West Indies, and Africa. Materials cover folktales, legends, ballads, dance tunes, oral history, and popular culture. The Photographic Collection was launched in 1976 and quickly became a major focus of the Center, documenting the changing lifestyles of Louisianians.

The research component of the Center for Louisiana Studies has always served to facilitate access to the wealth of primary documents for visiting researchers, faculty, and students. The result of this seminal function has been the production of dissertations, theses, monographs, exhibitions, films, and recordings. The Center staff frequently prepares extensive guides; indices, calendars and bibliographies to prepare students and researchers for work in the Center. From 1982 through 1988, the Center, with the help of over 400 contributors, produced A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, the definitive work on Louisianians who have formed our state. There are over 3,000 entries in the two-volume set.

The interpretative component of the Center has reached a broad audience of our citizens. This has been achieved largely through book publications (approximately 100 titles in the last twenty-five years), serial publications (Louisiana History, Louisiana History Bulletin, The Attakapas Gazette, Louisiana Review), exhibitions (Louisiana Bien-AimÈ, Green Fields: 200 Years of Louisiana Sugar, Becoming Woman: A Series of Louisiana Portraits, Burnt in Their Youth: Children of Depression Louisiana, Southwest Louisiana Coastal Wetlands), competitions and essay contests, dramatic readings and classroom programs, lectures, and consultancies (U.S. National Park Services interpretative centers for Jean Lafitte National Parks).

These core activities of the Center for Louisiana Studies have led to important collaborative programs at the University: a new Ph.D. program in Francophone Studies (one of only three in the entire world that researches and teaches about the entire Francophone world); the folklore option at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the Department of English (often focusing on Louisiana folklore and folklife); the prestigious creative writing program (with outstanding writers such as Ernest Gaines, Luis Urrea, Darrell Bourque and Jerry McGuire); and the recently established concentration in public history in the Department of History and Geography.

The current title for the area, the Center for Louisiana and Deep South Studies, envisions continuation of its original activities and expansion of its scope. The strength of its past is confirmed by Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial Series in Louisiana History, a twenty volume series reflecting the wide variety of influences on Louisiana. This represents the largest research publication ever undertaken in the history of the State and will finish in the year 2003 in time for the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase. The expansion of research, teaching, and outreach activities for the Center promises to be most exciting. The University will compete for a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop one of the ten regional Humanities centers (Deep South) to be created over the next three years. In conjunction with this growth, the Center intends to create a university press (growing from the many high quality publications already produced) that reflects and defines the work of the Center and the State on a national and international scale. Closer integration and interaction with other centers of the University will enhance the Center. These collaborations include: the Center for Socioeconomic Research; the Cultural Preservation program of the School of Architecture; the Humanities Resource Center; the Center for Acadian and Creole Folklore; and several special collections in Dupre Library. Now, with the addition of other serial publications, notably the Revue Francophone (official journal of the International Council on Francophone Studies), the National Association of Humanities Education, and Deviant Behavior, the University has become a powerful research and publishing institution concerned with the Deep South.

Document last revised Monday, October 27, 2003 5:09 PM

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