JACKSON, Mississippi — The Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum — two new interconnected museums that cover the sweep of Mississippi history and the state’s major role in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement — opened in Jackson on Dec. 9.
The museums combine interactive visitor experiences with exhibits showcasing artifacts including a 500-year-old dugout canoe and the doors of the Bryant Grocery that 14-year-old Emmett Till walked through before a fateful encounter with the shopkeeper that led to his murder in the summer of 1955.
The two museums share a lobby, auditorium, classrooms, collection storage and exhibit workshop for a facility that covers a total of 200,000 square feet.
The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum’s eight galleries chronicle the events of the national Civil Rights Movement that took place in Mississippi. It includes memorials to people who were victims of lynching in the state, mug shots of every Freedom Rider arrested in Mississippi and stories of Civil Rights veterans.
There are two immersive theaters that explain how the Brown v. Board of Education decision and Till’s murder ignited the Civil Rights Movement.
Among the powerful artifacts are shards of glass from a bombed church, a burned cross and an FBI fingerprint kit.
The heart of the museum is a central space lit by a 30-foot-tall light sculpture that plays the museum’s theme song, “This Little Light of Mine,” to highlight people who lost heir lives for the Civil Rights Movement.
The Museum of Mississippi History’s theme is One Mississippi, Many Stories, which runs throughout eight galleries that explore the many diverse people who contributed to the state’s history from prehistoric times to present day.
The stories are personalized through an extensive collection of Mississippi artifacts including wrought-iron slave shackles; an early Bowie knife; life-sized models of the homes of an enslaved family, a yeoman farmer and a wealthy planter; a baseball glove owned by Willie Mitchell, the Mississippi native who once struck out Babe Ruth; and a replica 1930s general store.