Bill Capo / Action Report
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NEW ORLEANS -- A climate-controlled vault at the Old U.S. Mint houses documents dating back to 1714, when New Orleans was founded and Louisiana became a French and then Spanish colony.

'This is the crown jewel of Louisiana in here with these colonial documents,' said Louisiana State Museum Curator Sarah-Elizabeth Gundlach as she stood inside the vault.

The State Museum system is making digital copies of 70,000 documents, roughly 250,000 pages before they deteriorate. And they're finding fascinating stories like the one from 1723.

'This is about a man who was killing dogs and cats, and selling the meat to Charity Hospital to feed to the patients,' said Project Specialist Melissa Stein.

And from a 1764 account of a runaway slave, what could be the oldest mention of a dish called Gumbo.

'It is the first reference to Gumbo that we've found in the documents, 1764,' Stein said. 'It's spelled, if I can read it right, G-U-M-B-E-A-U.'

They're transcribing 180 pages a day, and they'll be posted on a website, where anyone can see them, and then they'll be translated.

'Opening up these documents like this will basically allow historians to change, reinterpret Louisiana's colonial history,' said State Museum Director Of Collections Greg Lambousy.

It's a $1.5 million project, and so far they've only raised $200,000, so they really need your help. But they'll give you a nice thank you. They throwing a big party here at the Mint Saturday night called A Records Review.

'We'll have a jazz trio, a string quartet that is going to play 18th century airs, French and Spanish airs,' said Lambousy.

It will be a fun party, but it will also help preserve our history for future centuries. Tickets cost $75, for more information, call the State Museum Foundation at 558-0493, or visit their website at

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