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The Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum - interconnected museums that will take visitors through the sweep of Mississippi history and the state's role as ground zero in the Civil Rights Movement - will open in Jackson on December 9 as the capstone of the state's bicentennial celebration.

The museums will combine state-of-the-art interactive visitor experiences with exhibits showcasing artifacts such as a 500-year-old dugout canoe, a rare 20-star U.S. flag from 1818, and a set of flip flops worn by a Freedom Rider while imprisoned in the Hinds County Jail.

Both museums will use Mississippi's rich tradition of storytelling to showcase the compelling lives of ordinary people who made extraordinary contributions to the state and the nation. The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum will be the only state-operated civil rights museum in the nation.

The Mississippi Legislature provided $90 million to build the two museums, which include a shared lobby, auditorium, temporary exhibit galleries, classrooms, collection storage, and exhibit workshop, covering 200,000 sq. ft. - the equivalent of three and a half football fields. Donors gave an additional $17 million for exhibits and endowments.

The Museum of Mississippi History explores the state from prehistoric times to present day through 12 galleries. The museum follows large and complex storylines, from European contact with Native Americans to the rise of slavery and King Cotton, and from the broken promises of Reconstruction to the devastation of the Great Flood of 1927 - as well as wars at home and abroad. These stories are made personal through the world's finest collection of Mississippi artifacts.

Visitors will also marvel at the skill and artistry of Native Americans evident in carved stone vessels from thousands of years ago. Book lovers will delight in Eudora Welty's manual typewriter. Music fans will thrill to the sounds of Muddy Waters, Tammy Wynette, and Jimmy Buffett.

The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum chronicles the pivotal role of the Mississippi Movement. Visitors will witness the freedom struggle in eight interactive galleries that show the systematic oppression of Black Mississippians during the Jim Crow era and their fight for equality that transformed the state and nation. Visitors will hear Freedom Riders tell about their arrests and experiences in prison. The real world effects of the "separate but equal" doctrine will be vividly displayed in a schoolroom split down the middle, depicting one classroom for blacks and another for whites. The names of every person known to have been lynched in Mississippi will be etched into columns throughout the museum.

Visitors will emerge from these galleries into an open central space defined by a soaring sculpture that will light up and play music when people approach it. "This Little Light of Mine" honors Mississippi's grassroots Movement veterans and celebrates the potential within every person to make a difference. The museum's final gallery will engage visitors in the ongoing conversation about the progress that has been made - and the challenges that remain.

Visit the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum website at and the Museum of Mississippi History at for ticket prices, group tours, and more information.

The 2 Museum Member program launched in the spring of 2017. Members will receive a full year of unlimited admission to the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. For more information or to become a member, go to

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History is the second-oldest state department of archives and history in the United States. The department collects, preserves, and provides access to the archival resources of the state, administers museums and historic sites, and oversees statewide programs for historic preservation, state and local government records management, and publications. For more information call (601) 576-6850 or see

Opening day celebration is at 11 a.m. Free admission all weekend.

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