CelebrationBy ANTHONY WARREN,
State marks bicentennial with museums opening, events
Thousands of people are expected to flock to downtown Jackson this weekend to celebrate the opening of the two Mississippi museums, an event which coincides with the state’s bicentennial.
Even for those who were unable to get tickets to visit the museums on opening weekend, there will be plenty to do, with celebratory events planned across the capital city.
A year-long celebration marking the state’s 200-year anniversary will be capped this weekend with the opening of the Mississippi History Museum and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.
The museums open on December 9. Ceremonies marking the opening will include speeches from civil rights leaders and state dignitaries, as well as guided tours of the museums themselves.
Tickets for tours were made available in October and were “snapped up in two days,” according to Stephenie Morrisey, assistant to the director for communication and outreach with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH).
In all, 6,000 tickets were made available – 3,300 for Saturday and 2,700 for Sunday, she said.
“We wanted to make sure as many people visit the museums as possible, but so everyone will have a pleasant experience, we had to (limit) it,” she said. “It’s just the first weekend, and we’re not going anywhere.”
Opening ceremonies will begin at 11 a.m., with seating in front of the museums opening up at 10 a.m. No ticket is needed to attend the opening, Morrisey said.
The ceremony will feature remarks from several speakers, as well as live music.
Speakers will include Myrlie Evers, the wife of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, Georgia Rep. John Lewis, Gov. Phil Bryant, former Gov. Haley Barbour and former Gov. William Winter.
Musical entertainment will include the Mississippi Girlchoir and Utica Jubilee Singers, who will open the program at 11 a.m. The Madison Central High School Brass Quintet will perform as well, with an orignal piece composed by award-winning Mississippi composer James Sclater. After remarks, a “bicentennial choir” featuring more than 100 people from local church and school choirs will perform “This Little Light of Mine.”
This Little Light of Mine is the title of the signature exhibit of the Civil Rights Museum.
Additional live performances begin at 1 p.m., with Heart Society featuring Teneia Sanders-Eichelberger and Ben Eichelberger, followed by Grammy-winning Gospel singer Doug Williams at 2:30 and Steve Azar and the Kings Men at 4 p.m.
Streets surrounding the museums will be closed to traffic. Food trucks, crafts vendors and a visitors’ tent will line North Street. Jefferson, Mississippi and Amite streets will also be closed off, she said.
Parking will be at the fairgrounds, and shuttles will take visitors the museums. Seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis.
From December 2 to December 4, the Jackson Interfaith Civil Rights Committee hosted a series of forums to commemorate the Kneel-In Movement. The movement, which was part of the overall Civil Rights struggle of the 1960s, was an effort to integrate the capital city’s white churches.
Other activities honoring the state’s bicentennial will include a major interactive photo exhibit on Capitol Street and a new art exhibit at the Mississippi Museum of Art. Several downtown attractions will also be open on December 9 to welcome visitors to the capital city.
A shuttle will be available to take visitors to the Governor’s Mansion and Mississippi Capitol Building, which will be open for guided tours, and the Smith-Robertson Museum and Mississippi Old Capitol Museum, which will be open for self-guided tours, Morrisey said.
The shuttle also will carry visitors to the art museum, which will be opening a new exhibit highlighting Mississippi artists.
The exhibit, entitled Picturing Mississippi, 1817-2017: Land of Plenty, Pain and Promise, will run from December 9, 2017 to July 8, 2018.
It will focus on “the full scope of Mississippi art, from works made by indigenous peoples before European arrival to depictions of the Civil War, responses to civil rights and the emergence of the state’s contemporary artistic voice,” according to MMA’s Web site.
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission to that exhibit is free.
The Greater Jackson Arts Council (GJAC) will be highlighting Mississippi artists as well, with “The Mississippi Mile,” a mile-long interactive photo gallery running along Capitol Street.
Windows and storefronts along the thoroughfare will be used to showcase the art – five-foot-wide photos created by Mississippians from across the state, according to a GJAC press release.
Additionally, the Mississippi Mile will feature a beer garden and a Mississippi arists’ bazaar, where visitors will be able to purchase art.
The event was put together “in response to the quick run-through (of tickets for the civil rights and history museums),” said David Lewis, GJAC project specialist. “If people are unable to get a ticket, we still want them to come to Jackson and see Jackson.”
Capitol will be closed off from Roach Street and State Street. However, the cross-throughs at Farish, Lamar, Congress, West, President and State will still be open, he said.
The Two Mississippi Museums are located at 220 North St., next to the William Winter Archives and History Building. Construction on the facilities began in 2013.
The Civil Rights Museum has eight galleries that chronicle the history of Africans in Mississippi, slavery, the Jim Crow era, and the Civil Rights movement between 1945 and 1975.
The Museum of Mississippi History also includes eight galleries that highlight the state’s history from prehistoric times to present day, according to a MDAH press release.
The museums were designed by ECD of Jackson and Perkins+Will of Durham, NC. Thrash Commercial Contractors. Exhibits include a 500-year-old dugout canoe and the doors to Bryant Grocery, that Emmett Till walked through shortly before he was killed.
The Mississippi Legislature allocated $90 million for the project, and another $19 million in private dollars has been contributed.
For more information, log onto www.mdah.ms.gov.