The lovely Presbytère building, designed in 1791 as a rectory for the St Louis Cathedral, serves as New Orleans’ Mardi Gras museum. You’ll find there’s more to the city’s most famous celebration than wanton debauchery – or, at least, discover the many levels of meaning behind the debauchery. There’s an encyclopedia’s worth of material on the krewes (parade marching clubs), secret societies, costumes and racial histories that comprise the complex Mardi Gras tapestry, all intensely illuminating and easy to follow.
There are also rotating special exhibits on local life, and a permanent exhibition explaining Hurricane Katrina's impact on New Orleans. The Katrina exhibit tackles the issue of how the city survives (and thrives) within the hurricane zone. Multimedia displays, stark photography, several attics' worth (literally) of found objects and a thoughtful layout combine to create a powerful experience.