The first square of Bicentennial Bingo says to Visit A Museum. There are a lot of museums in Mississippi. A lot. There will even be two brand new museums this coming December; the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History. They even opened a new Grammy Museum in the delta last March. I’m excited to see the two that are opening in December. However, it doesn’t matter if the museum is super teeny tiny or very grand and large. We’ve got them and I have hit a lot of them. My family is really big into museums.
There are various types of museums, but if they have an actual museum tacked on to them (and are not merely a cultural place, which I’ll say for later), then I’ll list them here. I’ll also list them by region [Delta, Pines, Hills, Coastal, Central/River], since that is how Mississippi is divvied up.
Coastal Region: I’m starting with this one since it’s my region. These are all the coastal region museums that I have actually visited and I do need to say a bit about them.
- Lauren Rogers Museum of Art [Laurel]
If you see any art museum, I highly recommend LRMA in Laurel. It’s better than the art museums in Hattiesburg and it is nationally recognized. They have a lot of awesome things. Indigenous (Native American) baskets, British Georgian silver, Japanese woodblocks, European art. It’s also in a gorgeous historic home with a really fab library. They also have rotating exhibits, some by Mississippi artists. I’ve not been to the Mississippi Museum of Art which predominantly features only Mississippi artists, so I’m sure that is good. But this is the one that I highly recommend. If you go to an art museum, go to this one.
If you’re in Laurel and you like primitive buildings (think Appalachian Mountains), then you should go to Landrum’s Homestead. The buildings are original, but were moved to their current location, and are from the 1800s. It’s definitely worth a one time visit. I haven’t been in about 23 years and have wanted to go again recently.
- Veteran’s Memorial Museum [Laurel]
Also, if you are at all interested in previous wars [WWI – Vietnam], then I can’t recommend all three Military Museums (one in Laurel, two in Hattiesburg) enough. While I don’t like war, I am very interested in it, historically speaking. All three are very great museums. The one in Laurel, VMM, isn’t as large as the MAAM in Hattiesburg (nor the WWII museum in New Orleans), but it has some really fantastic pieces that you won’t see in any of the other museums.
- African American Military Museum [Hattiesburg]
The AAMM, in downtown Hattiesburg, covers all modern wars with African American soldiers and is located in the old African American USO and they play forties music outside. I have been to all three and you really can’t see just one as they’re so different. However, if you just want to choose one, I’d suggest AAMM because African Americans are neglected a lot in history textbooks, so the information there is more interesting since it’s more than likely something you didn’t already know prior to going in.
- Mississippi Armed Forces Museum [Hattiesburg]
MAAM is located on the grounds of Camp Shelby Army base just south of Hattiesburg. It’s pretty big and spans all the 20th century wars up to Vietnam. It’s a really nice, large, and comprehensive war museum.
- Hattiesburg Area Historical Society Museum [Hattiesburg]
This museum is super tiny. I’m not even kidding. It’s only a little larger than the room I’m currently in typing up this blog post. It’s one room in our former 1930s library, so I do love the building. If you’re in Hattiesburg, it is worth seeing and will take you all of fifteen minutes… and it’s free. If you’re lucky, a lady will be there (like when I went) and will tell you all sorts of great historical information on the area.
- USM Museum of Art [Hattiesburg]
If you’re already in the area, and they have a good exhibit, sure why not. But, my recommendation is to go to the LRMA in Laurel. Honestly. Skip all of the art gallery/museums here in town and just go to Laurel for that. Or even the MMoA in Jackson.
- Beauvoir [Biloxi]
Unless you’re just really super into the Civil War or Confederate President Jefferson Davis you can skip this one. I’ve been to this about four times and it was three times too many, honestly. It is a historic home and it is kind of interesting, but I’ve seen better and more interesting historic homes. And while I am interested in historic wars, I’m not that into the Civil War. From time to time they do have a battle reinactment, so if you’re into Civil War reinactments, you could check out the one here. But other wise, you can just skip this one.
- Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum [Biloxi]
When I went to this, it was in a tiny building, which Hurricane Katrina later destroyed. I have not been to the new museum, but I do want to go as it seems pretty vast now and I’m sure there are a lot of interesting exhibits and displays. It was interesting when I went, I’m just betting that it is more so now. I’ve kept it on the list (where other homes were removed) because there is an actual museum attached to the house tour.
- The J. L. Scott Marine Education Center [Biloxi]
This was my most favourite place to visit when I was younger. But Hurricane Katrina destroyed it. You can still go to it, or at least I think, but it’s quite confusing. As I think they rebuilt it and gave it a bunch of different names; The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, Marine Education Center, & The Center for Marine Education and Research Museum. Two of them are at least the exact same place (the first and last places). They’re all open to the public, but you must have a reservation first. The confusion and the need for a reservation has seen me hesitant to go. Perhaps someday I’ll visit whatever these places are exactly. Perhaps you can figure it out better. If it’s anything like J. L. Scott Marine Ed Center then it’s definitely a must see. Apparently though, we are getting an aquarium (like the Audubon Aquarium of the America’s in New Orleans), though not this year.
- John C. Stennis Space Center [Pearlington]
NASA shut down this space center, but they still have some of the exhibits, apparently, with it now being referred to as INFINITY Science Center. I loved the two times I got to go here on school field trips, however, I don’t know if it’s still worth seeing. This is on the west side of the Gulf Coast, on HWY 59 just before you enter into Louisiana heading towards New Orleans. Unless you’re really into NASA and space stuff or you’re not already on your way to New Orleans, I’d probably say skip it because it’s really far out of your way otherwise. But, I would recommend it, as it seems just as fun as it always was.
*We are apparently getting a Leontyne Price Museum. She is an African American opera singer from Laurel. If the museum actually gets up and running, I’m definitely going to it.
- Historic Jefferson College [Washington]
This is an old military prep school founded in 1811 in the little community of Washington which is just north of Natchez. There are three original buildings still intact, a small museum, and a walking trail through the woods, as well as a natural spring. They do historical re-enactments, specifically for a skirmish that happened during the War of 1812. It’s just a really nice place to visit and is well worth at least a once over in my opinion.
- William Johnson House [Natchez]
I did tour this one. It is part of the National Parks Service as well as the Natchez Historical Park, which also includes Melrose Plantation and Fort Rosalie (not the same as the house), which sadly you can’t go and see. This is the home and business of freed black William Johnson and the museum is dedicated to his life and is worth a visit.
- Mount Locust Inn & Plantation [Natchez]
This is a stop on the Natchez Trace Parkway. And really the only stop work visiting between Natchez and Jackson. It is one of the oldest structures in Natchez (or even all of Mississippi), dating back to 1780. There are the burnt out ruins of a girls school and then a billboard with information, but this is an actual place to stop and tour. Though the Natchez Trace Parkway isn’t technically a museum, and also wouldn’t fall into any other portions of Bicentennial Bingo, you should drive a portion of it. You should stop and see this and then further on towards Jackson there is a spot where you can see and walk along the original trace, which is something that I haven’t done, but would love to.
- Vicksburg National Military Park [Vicksburg]
There are other Civil War museums and battle fields in the state, but I’ve only been to this one. This one is pretty expansive though and is the one I would recommend. There’s a lot of fascinating information as well as re-enactments.
- U.S.S. Cairo [Vicksburg]
The U.S.S. Cairo is a Union city-class ironclad gunboat that was used in the war and sank. It was unearthed along the banks and it is available to view. There were only seven of these and they were made to patrol the Mississippi River and were also the first ironclad warships the US ever produced. The U.S.S. Cairo is the only one still in existence as the others were sunk and never recovered or were sold for scrap. Everything that was salvagable from the ship is also on display.
- Old Courthouse Museum [Vicksburg]
It’s mainly Civil War history, but can you blame them since they saw a major battle and the courthouse was only just finished three years before the start of the Civil War. It’s crammed full of all sorts of interesting and fascinating items though, and a lot is Warren County history, plus it’s only $5 entry for adults and cheaper for seniors and kids. It’s definitely worth the small price.
- McComb Historic Railroad Museum [McComb]
McComb might be out of your way unless you’re heading to or from New Orleans or Jackson, or are on the way to Natchez; however if you should find yourself passing through McComb and are at all interested in railroad history then you should stop and see it. It’s a super tiny museum located in the historic (and current) railroad passenger building, but it’s very nicely laid out and really interesting and informative. There’s also old cars and an engine outside to look at. It’s also free. You can’t beat free and it’s totally worth it.
- Mississippi Petrified Forest [Flora]
This is just outside of Jackson, the state capitol. It’s not very large, but it is impressive. Ancient trees that are now petrified wood, meaning they are stone. It’s a nature walk to see the petrified wood and information and science on how the area developed over time. I’m actually really wanting to go back to this. It’s a view more than once sort of place.
- Mississippi Museum of Natural Science [Jackson]
This one I am mixed about. It is fascinating to see taxidermied animals in a scientific setting when you otherwise wouldn’t see said animal… but it’s also sad, which is why I liked and didn’t like going to this type of museum as a kid. They also have live animals, such as the swamp exhibit with fish, alligators, and alligator snapping turtles. If you are at all curious about natural science, it is a really great museum. Plus, I don’t remember them having prehistoric things when I went (it’s been a while, perhaps they did), but they do now (or either always did?)
If it wasn’t clear, my family and I are big museum people. Perhaps not art (dad), but we all like history museums. This one is actually pretty cool. Agriculture and forestry were (and still are) big ticket items in this state, so this is how Indigenous tribes, freed slaves, and white Europeans made their livlihoods in some form or fashion. And it’s interesting to see how these things have evolved over time.
- Old Capitol Museum [Jackson]
This is a good one as well, and obviously denotes that the state abandoned this capitol building for a newer one, which we did in 1903. This one dates from 1839 and besides the grandious architecture (and perhaps a penny glued to the back interior steps – if it’s there, I did try to stop it from happening), it documents the state of Mississippi as well as famous court cases. It’s also free.
There are some museums in the Central/River region which I haven’t been to yet, but wish to highlight, as I think they would definitely be worth visiting:
- Grand Gulf Military State Park [Grand Gulf]
This one is very Civil War heavy, as evidenced by the websites background of cannons and Confederate flags. However, Grand Gulf is a ghost town and is basically a time capsule of buildings from the era; that were around and survived artillery from a Civil War battle, which is why I think it would be fascinating to visit. It’s just a little west of Port Gibson. 30 miles south (in between Port Gibson and Natchez) is the ghost town of Rodney, which also survived the Civil War and the skirmish it saw, and all the buildings are still there like a time capsule. It, however, is not an actual museum, though you can go. So, I would suggest hitting both of these historic time capsule ghost towns up… if you’re in the area.
- Mississippi Museum of Art [Jackson]
This is a museum dedicated to American and Mississippi art and artists, with rotating exhibits featuring other art that is not merely American or Mississippian. I have never been, but I do really want to go.
- Museum of Mississippi History [Jackson]
This museum is everything Mississippi history from pre-European contact until WWII. It is slated to open in December of this year.
- The Russell C. Davis Planetarium [Jackson]
I’ve never been to a planetarium and have always wanted to. It’s the only one in the state, as well as the closest planetarium to me, though there are some in Alabama and in Louisiana. Most people who have been say it’s not worth it, but I’d really like to make that assessment for myself.
There are some museums in the Pines region which I haven’t been to yet, but wish to highlight, as I think they would definitely be worth visiting:
- Meridian Museum of Art [Meridian]
It’s an art museum, plus it is housed in a former library built in 1912. That’s actually enough reason for me to want to visit it. It is primarily an art museum for the region, but also of the state.
- Meridian Railroad Museum [Meridian]
I’m interested in railroads, so I would want to go to this because of the type of museum that it is, also the fact that it’s housed in the historic railway building. The admission is also free.
- French Camp Historic Area [French Camp]
It is a sort of living history museum (no costumed people like at Colonial Williamsburg), and it is situated along the Natchez Trace Parkway. I really dig living history museums, even if no one is wearing period clothing or preforming historical re-enactments or demonstrations, though they do have that last bit from time to time.
Though I have been to the hills region once on a theatre trip to Tupelo, we didn’t go to any museums, or see anything really. However, there are reasons that I wish to go back. Nature being one of them, as it’s not known as the hills region for nothing; these are the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and some of the nature shows it. But, also a few museums. So, here’s everything I’d be interested in visiting.
- Town Square Post Office & Museum [Pontotoc]
I really dig post offices and will visit retro or historic ones when I travel. Besides this being a cultural heritage museum to the area, but it’s also still a working post office. The first post office to have a museum and the only only full service vintage contract postal facility in the United States. Of course I would go to this!
A cultural and heritage museum in a historic building. I’d go, because I want to see Tishomingo State Park, so would already be in the area.
- Dunn-Seiler Museum [Starkville]
This is a Geosciences museum on the Mississippi State University campus, which exhibits of fossils, rocks, and minerals.
- Union County Heritage Museum [New Albany]
This museum is a cultural and heritage museum of the area, with exhibits on art and their most famous literary person, William Faulkner.
- Crossroads Museum [Corinth]
It’s a railroad museum and not only that, but the Norfolk Southern and Kansas City freight trains still run through the railroad crossroads that once saw traffic from the Memphis & Charleston and the Mobile & Ohio railroads! I mean, it’s a railroad crossroads! I’ve never seen that, so of course I really want to! Besides rail history, there’s regional and heritage history as well.
- Tupelo Automobile Museum [Tupelo]
We really dig antique and classic cars. Well, not so much my mom, but my dad and The Sister like them as well as myself. We’ve traveled to Petite Jean, AR for their classic car shows before and we’ll go see any that are local or stop and see any that we pass. This place houses over 100 antique and classic cars in pristine condition. Umm, yes, I definitely want to see this.
- Elvis Presley Birthplace [Tupelo]
While I still want to tour the inside of Graceland in Memphis, as we only drove by the outside of it, I also want to see where Elvis Presley was born. They have him tacked on to the Blues Trail, but I’m iffy about that since he did just steal the blues from black people and took credit for it. But I do also like some of his music. So, I’m not tacking him onto the Blues Trail portion, but I also wouldn’t mind seeing his birthplace.
This is the only region in my state that I have never visited, though other members of my family have. It’s not because I never wanted to go, it’s just that it didn’t work out for one reason or another. So there aren’t any museums that I’ve been to, but there are some I would want to go to.
- Jim Henson Delta Boyhood Museum [Leland]
I absolutely adore Jim Henson and his works. My parents have been to this museum and it’s very small and they say not a very good museum, I still really want to go and see it.
- Museum of the Mississippi Delta [Greenwood]
This is a cultural and heritage museum to the area, and the delta in general. I dig cultural and heritage museums for local places.
- Delta Blues Museum [Clarksdale]
It’s everything to do with the music known as The Delta Blues. I like the blues… well not country white people singing the blues because that just seems weird. But real blues music prior to the sixties.
- Highway 61 Blues Museum [Leland]
Another blues museum dedicated to all the greats who created the music in the first place.
- Tunica RiverPark & Museum [Tunica]
A historical area museum (cultural/heritage) as well as natural science for the Mississippi River area. It includes aquariums of native aquatic animals and an observation deck with which to view the mighty river.
Stay tuned for the next post Authors – Craftworks, which will cover the next five Bicentennial Bingo slots; Read A Book By A Mississippi Author, Explore A State Park, Volunteer Your Time, Visit The Pines, & Learn About Mississippi Craftwork.