Title page for ETD etd-01242005-151053

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Ostrom, Kelli
URN etd-01242005-151053
Title Vernacular Exposures at the Aillet House: Anthropological Interpretations of Material Culture and Cultural Change
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department Geography & Anthropology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Paul Farnsworth Committee Chair
Miles Richardson Committee Member
Rob Mann Committee Member
  • public interpretation
  • social memory
  • identity and ethnicity
  • material culture studies
  • historical archaeology
  • museum displays
Date of Defense 2004-12-14
Availability unrestricted
The thesis project developed from preliminary archaeological testing in 1999 at site 16WBR45, the original location of the Aillet House. The results of the testing were informative as they suggested the placement of the house and attested to casual activity on the porch. However, the results certainly did not answer the need for a more discerning interpretation of the historic house museum known as the Aillet House, currently on display at the West Baton Rouge Parish Museum. I collaborated with the museum in 2004 to bring to their current interpretive program anthropological insights gained from archaeological remains, an architectural survey of the structure, a social analysis of the house, and a social history of the lives of the two families.

The identity of the house was explored in three stages related to the construction and development of the house. The Acadian Cottage was constructed during the Landry period, circa 1830, and their tenancy illustrates the social and political life of an Acadian small planter before the Civil War. The material identities detected within the home illustrate a contest between the presentation of ethnic allegiances and cultural stability. During the Aillet period at the turn of the century, the house was modernized with the addition of a kitchen and dining room. It was determined that some materials lost their power to convey meaning in face of the increased valuation of mass-produced goods. Despite the changes of material identities, certain Acadian continuities were detected in the use of the attic space as a sleeping chamber and the use of the gallery as an outside room. The house is now presented at the Parish museum as a monument to the French-Creole life in antebellum South Louisiana.

An opportunity exists for community involvement in the necessary reconstruction of social memory. An exhibit illustrating the lives of the Landry and Aillet families as well as notable changes through time in room use and in material identity will contribute to the museumís interpretive program.

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