National Hansen’s Disease Museum

Hansen’s Disease is commonly known as leprosy. In 1894, Act 80 of the LA State Legislature states that those diagnosed with leprosy, a disease without a cure at the time, were to be quarantined. Seven patients are moved from New Orleans to the area that is now known as the Carville area. In the 1940’s the hospital is rebuilt to house over 400 people. At this same time, Guy Henry Faget, MD, begins a successful drug therapy. In the 70’s, people could voluntarily go to Carville, but there was no longer a mandatory quarantine. In the 90’s, the buildings were used as a minimum security prison while older patients with Hansen’s disease stayed on the property even though they were free to go.

In 1996, the museum was established to tell the story of Hansen’s Disease, its cure, and to honor the people who had the disease. The most moving displays are about the people who lived there. They had their own Mardi Gras with unique throws and their own newspaper. The Star is one of the places patients had an outlet to express themselves. At the end of one issue, on a fact page, they include, “A man or woman may remain in perfect health for years after contracting Hansen’s Disease. Half the patients now at Carville could sit unnoted in any social gathering.”

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