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One of two fine museums flanking St. Louis Cathedral in the heart of the French Quarter, the Cabildo houses the premier collection of New Orleans and Louisiana historical artifacts. It starts with the earliest explorers and covers slavery, post–Civil War reconstruction, and statehood. It is well qualified to do so: The Cabildo is the site of the signing of the Louisiana Purchase transfer (this 1795 building was the seat of government at the time; at other times it served as a courthouse and a prison). The detailed history is covered from a multicultural perspective and touches on topics like antebellum music, mourning and burial customs (a big deal during the yellow fever epidemics), immigration and assimilation, and the role of the Southern woman. Portraits of historical figures and incidents are hung throughout, and the Napoleon Room (opened May 2016) houses the crown jewel: Napoleon's death mask. The item and its story (it almost ended up in a trash dump) and quite fascinating. It’s a dense but terrific museum.