LSU, LSU AgCenter, Burden Foundation announce unified identity for Burden Museum and Gardens
Officials from LSU, the LSU AgCenter and the Burden Foundation gathered on Sept. 19 to announce the official rebranding of the Burden Center and the adjacent Rural Life Museum as the new Burden Museum & Gardens.
During the event, held in the Ione Burden Conference Center, speakers discussed the process of rebranding the facility, including future plans for the respective entities located on the shared Burden Museum & Gardens site – the LSU Rural Life Museum, the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens and Windrush Gardens.
"Burden Museum and Gardens is a wonderful collaborative effort between LSU, the LSU AgCenter and the Burden Foundation," said John Russin, vice chancellor of the LSU AgCenter. "We are working to rebrand this entire property to make it a destination for the city, state, region, country and, hopefully, the world."
Located at 4560 Essen Lane, just off of Interstate 10, the 440-acre Burden Museum and Gardens offers unparalleled discovery and adventure in the heart of Baton Rouge. This window to Louisiana's rich cultural past provides historic, natural and educational experiences, and it is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the flora and fauna of Louisiana's lush landscapes and agricultural heritage.
LSU Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Stuart Bell described Burden as "an oasis in the middle of a city."
"What you have here is 440 acres that's nestled just two or three minutes away from Interstate 10 traffic," he said. "When you exit off the highway, you can just feel the stress relief as you come in. What a wonderful resource we have not just for LSU and the AgCenter, but for all of Baton Rouge and the region."
LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander called Burden "the best kept secret in this part of the state," adding that the facility is "truly an amazing asset to have, right in the heart of Baton Rouge – such an amazing educational tool and laboratory with such a long-term intergenerational impact."
Burden Museum and Gardens began in the late 1800s as Windrush Plantation. The home and property were passed down throughout the generations until they reached the three children of William Pike Burden Sr. and Ollie Steele – Ione Easter Burden, William Pike Burden Jr. and Oliver Steele Burden. Following Pike Burden's death, Ione and Steele Burden began donating the property to the LSU System to nurture and develop the Burden legacy. Love for the family, their ancestral home and the community sparked a desire to preserve Windrush as a place that would foster agricultural and horticultural research, provide a destination for generations to appreciate and learn about Louisiana's rich rural and cultural heritage and give people a place to experience the beauty of the natural world.
"Steele Burden had a vision, and we've tried the best we can to fulfill that vision while, at the same time, growing and expanding this outstanding facility," said Bill Richardson, LSU vice president of agriculture. "This is the next logical step, working together as a whole to promote the entities we have here."
Today, Burden Museum and Gardens is guided by the generosity and vision of the Burden family, through the stewardship of the Burden Foundation, LSU and the LSU AgCenter.
"What a wonderful gift that Ione, Steel and Pike Burden gave to us when they donated their family property to LSU," said Jane Cassidy, LSU vice provost for human resources and facilities. "What we've accomplished this past year honors that donation by keeping true to what their wishes were for the property."
Plans to rebrand the facility, entailing both the Burden Center and the Rural Life Museum at that time, began in August 2012, Russin said, as the Burden Foundation's board of directors began discussions on renaming the property. He cited the foundation board's chairman, Bob Hawthorne, as a key figure in leading that development.
"There have been a number of master plan efforts to plan the path forward for the entire property," he said. "He (Hawthorne) started the co-branding effort, putting together a team whose efforts have led to this event."
Part of the rebranding effort also includes a new website – www.discoverburden.com –that provides information on each of the entities at Burden as well as a unified calendar of events, Russin said. Additional and more user-friendly changes at Burden will include uniform signage throughout the property, common hours for the entities at Burden and a shared visitor's center.
In addition to the day-to-day operations at Burden, the facility also serves as a host for private functions such as field trips, weddings, conferences and other group events, Cassidy said.
Jeff Kuehny, resident director of the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens, said that partnering the previously named Burden Center with the Rural Life Museum benefits both entities by creating a single worldwide hub for lovers of trees, plants, vegetables, fruits and flowers, as well as those interested in agricultural history and research.
"This partnership helps us, but also allows us to compliment what the museum has done in order to provide a meaningful, unified destination here at Burden," he said. "As part of a 25-year master plan, future expansion for the Botanic Gardens, will include a new visitor's center as well as an outreach facility for East Baton Rouge Parish Extension Offices, pavilion, educational tree house, more children's gardens, herb garden and a constructed wetlands research area also providing working demonstrations."
"The Burdens wanted two things for this property – for it to have purpose, and for it to be loved by the people of Baton Rouge as much as they loved this property. I believe both of those are true today," said David Floyd, director of the Rural Life Museum. "Where else can you go in the middle of a city and feel like you're in the middle of nowhere? The atmosphere is just thick with the agricultural history of Louisiana, and that's by design. We want this to be the special place that the Burdens loved."
Burden Museum and Gardens is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The facility is closed on New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Admission is charged for access to the LSU Rural Life Museum, Windrush Gardens and some events held throughout the year. There is no admission for the Botanic Gardens. Windrush House is open by appointment only.
To learn more about Burden Museum and Gardens, including how to schedule events at the facility, call 225-763-3990 or visit www.discoverburden.com.