Background — The Museum Campus of The Centre for French Colonial Life
The origins of this museum campus dates back to 1959, when the Bolduc House Museum in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri was opened to the public as a vehicle for preserving the region's French colonial heritage and creating greater awareness of that unique story.
The House was saved, restored and operated by The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Missouri, one of forty-four Corporate Societies within the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America. The NSCDA-MO was organized in October 10, 1896, and remains committed to its mission to collect and preserve manuscripts and artifacts associated with our national heritage, to preserve and restore buildings connected with the early history of our country, to support research and the dissemination of information concerning our shared past, and to foster a popular interest in our Colonial history.
Over time, other buildings were acquired to expand the range of stories being told through the Bolduc House Museum. In late 2016, the NSCDA-MO established a separate nonprofit organization, French Colonial America, to manage and operate the growing campus of historic structures. French Colonial America has been granted status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization by the Internal Revenue Service, so it can raise funds for the campus and its programs, and all donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent permitted by law.
This museum campus now includes five buildings dating from the late 1780s through the 1820s, which are being reinterpreted to illustrate the emergence over time of a resilient and distinctive French Creole culture in the region. We are still working to better understand this culture, which incorporated and adapted elements of French, Native American, African, Colonial Caribbean, Colonial Canadian, and Colonial English and German lifeways and practices, while still maintaining its essential identity as French, including the use of a French-based dialect and adherence to the Roman Catholic faith, and NSCDA-MO continues to support that pursuit of better understanding and interpretation through underwriting and encouragement of ongoing archival research and archaeology projects about the region's early history.
A new building was added to the campus in 2018: The Centre for French Colonial Life orientation and exhibits facility. Located in a former bank building adjoining the campus , the Centre was developed as an exhibits and education center with orientation, gift shop, offices, and climate-controlled collections storage functions. Temporary galleries will be used to present special interpretive exhibits and collaborative projects. Our long-term goal is to eventually develop and refine the purpose and subject matter of the museum campus in broader ways, as the Centre for French Colonial Life at Ste. Genevieve.
Photo courtesy of Susan Hurt