A City's Legends Endure, Precariously Preserved in Wax





New Orleans: Behind padlocked gates on Rue Conti in the French Quarter, the ghosts of 306 years were waiting in wax. Poured in layers some four decades ago in Paris, the figures inside the Musée Conti traced this city's cultural gumbo from Sieur de Iberville's rediscovery of the Mississippi River through the corrupt governments of Huey P. Long and Edwin W. Edwards, with stops at Storyville, the haunted house of the evil Madame Lalaurie and a riverboat gambling den. Had they melted? No.

Hunched in poses of battle or negotiation, dance or meditation, the figures were left inside the museum's windowless walls when Hurricane Katrina made landfall. There they stayed, through three weeks of temperatures that must have surpassed 100 degrees in that sealed space, staring out from their small stages into the black aloneness.

On Monday, their fates were revealed. The museum's owners, Lawrence and Katherine Spurlock, returned to the city for a first look at what they had left behind.



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