State expects to soon select contractor for 2 museums

JACKSON, Mississippi — The state of Mississippi expects to select a general contractor Sept. 26 for phase one for work on the Mississippi Museum of History and the accompanying Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

The Mississippi Business Journal reports that the contract award is a prelude to an Oct. 24 groundbreaking.

The Museum of History will tell the story of Mississippi from its pre-Columbian past, its evolution as an agrarian region with the arrival of the first European settlers and on to today’s emergence as a diverse and innovative manufacturing center.

The Civil Rights Museum will chronicle the decades-long struggle of African Americans for such basic rights as voting and the enjoyment of previously “whites only” public accommodations.

Kevin Upchurch

Kevin Upchurch, executive director of the state Department of Finance and Administration, said the first phase gets the shell built and completes the exterior landscaping for the complex.

“We anticipate the shell will be completed in May of 2015,” Upchurch said.

He said DFA will ask legislators to put $30 million for the build-out phase in a 2014 bond bill.

The state is expected to pitch in another $10 million toward $20 million for exhibits. Private fundraising will soon be underway to cover the remaining cost of the exhibits, museum officials say.

Lucy Allen, director of the Museum Division of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, said the museums and their common space will cover 319,000 square feet on four floors. Shared space includes the lobby, meeting rooms and an auditorium that will seat 300 and catering kitchen.

The second floor will be reserved for a pair of halls to accommodate temporary exhibits. A hall will be dedicated to each museum, though the design will allow for the halls to present combined exhibits.

Visitors will enter the complex through a two-story open lobby. The Museum of History will be to the left and the Civil Rights Museum to the right. Off the lobby will be the Hall of History, which will connect to classrooms and open to an outdoor porch and the auditorium.

While construction of the museum buildings continues over the next four years, a lot of work lies ahead in preparing the exhibits, many of which will be interactive, Allen said.