New and expanded museums will offer unforgettable experiences for visitors.
The pillars stretch skyward in the Hall of History, a cathedral-like space linking the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum beneath a single roof.
The shared common area serves as evidence that the legacy of the state and its citizens’ struggles for racial equality are intertwined. When this 200,000-square-foot facility opens in December 2017 as part of Mississippi’s bicentennial celebration, visitors from all backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures will meet to celebrate the unbreakable bond. Collectively called the “2 Mississippi Museums,” these new institutions are groundbreaking in their impact.
“The 2 Mississippi Museums will showcase the state’s rich and complex history and provide a state-of-the-art venue for community education, entertainment, dialogue and engagement,” says project director Lucy Allen. “Visitors can experience history firsthand by connecting with the past through historical documents, artifacts and interactive exhibits.”
Standing in the central exhibit hall of the Civil Rights Museum, visitors will feel the power of its theme, “This Little Light of Mine.” A glow from the skies, bursting through deep cuts in three sides and an oculus in the tall ceiling, will symbolize the illumination of heroic efforts to shake off the darkness of oppression.
Its façade marked by sharp diagonal lines representing the tensions of the movement, this first state-operated civil rights museum in the nation will house artifacts ranging from a razor Medgar Evers used the day before his death to part of the truck Vernon Dahmer’s family used to escape the fire which took his life.
Steps away in the Museum of Mississippi History, visitors will experience the diversity of the state’s past, beginning in Native American times with exhibits featuring ancient relics. The contributions of the state’s many immigrant cultures will be on display, along with items honoring military, literary, musical and artistic history.
Officials expect 180,000 visitors to walk onto the shared front porch—a classic symbol of Southern hospitality—and through the doors each year.
Also poised to be completed in time for the state’s December 2017 bicentennial is the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience in Meridian. Nicknamed “The MAX,” this facility is billed as a revolutionary museum experience focused on the state’s legends and legacy in creative fields. Here, visitors will find more than a few answers to the question of exactly what it is about Mississippi that inspires so many artists and creators.
This new cultural attraction aims to offer educational opportunities for youth and families while attracting tourists from around the world, says Mark Tullos, president and CEO. You’ll know you’re near when you spot the Hollywood-style Walk of Fame leading right to the museum’s front doors. Inside, interactive exhibits will tap into creative influences from home and church to landscape and community.
“The MAX will be a tremendous catalyst expanding the cultural economy in downtown Meridian,” Tullos says.
While these special spaces make final preparations, the state’s newest musical museum is enjoying star-studded success. The Grammy Museum® Mississippi opened in March 2016 in the Delta city of Cleveland, as the world’s most technologically advanced music museum. The first Grammy® Museum built outside of Los Angeles, this facility is perfectly placed in what Executive Director Emily Havens calls the “Birthplace of American Music.” “Nearly eight percent of Grammy Lifetime Achievement winners are from Mississippi,” Havens notes.
A trip to the Grammy Museum® Mississippi is like a night out at music’s biggest annual awards ceremony. Walk the red carpet and see the outfits artists wore when they won. Learn about—and listen to—all the Album of the Year honorees. Try out some new moves on the colorful dance floor. You can even write and record your own song, which will be stored in the museum’s archives along with those of the Grammy winners.
Two other Mississippi star attractions are also growing. In Tupelo, the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum recently completed the latest phase of an extensive expansion project, including the addition of a theater, two bronze statues and a visitor pavilion. Timing couldn’t be better—2017 marks the 40th anniversary of Presley’s death. Executive Director Dick Guyton says he expects to welcome “the largest crowds ever” to this site which includes the simple house Presley’s father built in 1934.
The new statues, one of Presley as a little boy and another of the all-grown-up performer, show visitors the entertainer’s transformation. Together, they are titled Becoming. A storyboard encircling them explains the key events along his journey.
“The Elvis Presley Birthplace property is a 15-acre park, but we’ve become much more than a park,” said Guyton. “We’re a destination for people from all over the world.”
The Delta region is also becoming even more of a musical destination, thanks to the creation and expansion of the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola. Since the blues legend’s Indianola burial in 2015, a sea of fans have come to pay respects and learn about his life. Construction will begin in 2017 on a memorial garden surrounding his gravesite. The space will feature panels bearing the names of King’s songs. Museum officials also plan to add an indoor area to showcase King’s custom tour bus, 1978 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow and 1984 “Mississippi Delta Blues blue” Chevrolet El Camino.
“He gave his whole life to people through his music, and he never stopped moving because people wanted to see him,” said Robert Terrell, museum director of operations. “So it’s only fitting there is a place where fans can come and reconnect with him.”
“2 Mississippi Museums," Museum of Mississippi History & Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, opening December 2017
GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi
Mississippi Arts & Entertainment Experience, opening December 2017
Elvis Presley Birthplace
B.B. King Museum & Delta Interpretive Center
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