MissPres News Roundup 1-18-2011

Although this roundup isn’t on our typical day, there’s been enough news this week to go ahead and post one this week.

We’ll start with a story that most of you probably already know about – especially if you watched Gov. Barber’s State of the State address (or any of the press following it) – and that is a potential Civil Rights Museum here in Mississippi.  During his speech last Tuesday, Barbour said that this was the “year to get this museum going.”  In a Clarion Ledger article, former Governor William Winter said he hopes legislators take up a bond bill that would provide funds for the Civil Rights Museum blueprints AND would begin construction of the Museum of Mississippi History.  This second museum, which would house MDAH’s museum collection, has been on hold since Hurricane Katrina.

There is a lot of debate – at least around the Civil Rights Museum – that will be interesting to watch unfold.  The obvious debate is about the cost of the museums given the economy and state budget.  With the Civil Rights Museum, the debate is also about the location.  The local TV news stations are following this as well.  WAPT has this video on their website. I hope that tying these two museums does not mean that both end up falling through.

Arlington is back in the news in Natchez where the Democrat ran two pieces about the ongoing fight to get the building stabilized – and possibly even restored.  The first discusses the two legal avenues that the city has – either criminal or civil.

“In my mind, the civil suit proceeding has more promise,” Nix said. “We are working with legal staff to determine what amendments we need to make to that code to give it more teeth before we file a civil suit.”. . .

“If we ordered him to repair the building, and he did not, he would be in contempt of court, which could result in an arrest warrant,” Nix said.

The second was an editorial by the paper’s board supporting the city’s efforts.  As always with the Democrat, the comments are worth reading as well. We’ll hear more about Arlington tomorrow.

The intersection of art and preservation was the subject of several stories around the state this week:

In Jackson, plans are in the works to find some creative ways to reuse the old Coca-Cola plant on Hwy 80.  According to the Clarion Ledger story, “an art gallery, artists’ work spaces, a coffee shop, a meeting area, a restaurant and retail are all possibilities” for the multi-building site.  The owner, a New York artist named Gil Sidi, is working on cleaning and renovations – which according to the article are fairly minor since the site is actually in pretty good shape.  While the above uses are all possibilities, the owner is waiting for the City and the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District to complete their U.S. 80 masterplan before really settling on uses for the plant.  I’m just glad that Mr. Sidi is willing to work on it now, even before the actual use is known.  Kudos to him!

Moving down to the coast, the Walter Anderson murals in Ocean Springs were the topic of a story on gulflive.com.  The title “Walter Anderson murals at the Ocean Springs Community Center to be restored” almost made me think it was an older story (since I know that restoration work has been going on for sometime on the murals).  According to this piece, the mural work should be completed by the summer.

Speaking of murals, one in the Columbus Post Office is sparking some debate up in the Golden Triangle area.  According to the Dispatch, “Ira Lanier, a native of Columbus who now lives in Colorado. . . has launched a one-man campaign to remove the historic mural, denouncing it as racist.”  The mural was commissioned in the 1930s under one of the many programs of the New Deal.  “Out of the Soil” (the mural’s title) is a scene with black field hands picking cotton while a white man is guiding a mule-powered plow in the foreground.  A church, cotton gin and lumber mill are depicted in the background.

I thought the story in the Dispatch found a nice balance in presenting opinions on the topic and the reporter also did her homework in finding out some more about the history of the mural itself, which was included in the story.  This mural is not the first Depression-era painting to raise modern debate in Mississippi.  The Eastland Building (a former post office, not courthouse) also has an historic mural that’s ruffled some feathers.  Their solution was a curtain to cover the mural most of the time.  It will be interesting to see what – if anything – happens with the one in Columbus.

From the Sun Herald this week, news from D’Iberville where this past weekend was the first of several opportunities for people to bring photos and documents to be scanned (and immediately returned) as part of a plan to create exhibits for Town Green – which will be a reception space and museum for the city.  The planners are especially interested in “photos of the old bridge, scenery, people fishing, school pictures and family photos, along with letters and other documents tied to D’Iberville’s past.”  Seems like some of what they are looking for might also be in MDAH’s holdings, but the article did not mention the planners doing additional research in Jackson.

Finally, three renovation update stories found some “ink” in various local papers this week:

The Enterprise-Journal had a blurb about the Summit depot.  I did not learn anything new about the project from it, but an interior photo was included this time (I’d only seen the exterior).  It looks good.

A little further north, the Brookhaven Daily Leader ran a story saying that renovations to “[t]he 101-year-old building that houses the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce on South Whitworth Avenue is nearing the end of year-long renovations.”  This building is the old City Hall, a fine Beaux Arts style building constructed in 1910. I didn’t know it was being worked on until I came across this article.  Might be worth a stop by in a few months to check it out.  I’ll be sure to share any pictures I take of it with everyone.

Finally, up in Kosciusko, the Star-Herald ran a story a couple of weeks ago that the renovations to the Attala County Courthouse are in the “finishing up” stage.  The work being done was “electrical renovations” and both the County & MDAH were contributing to the project -MDAH in the form of a grant.  According to the write-up, the finishing details were scheduled to be completed just over a week ago.  If there was a follow-up on that, I didn’t see it, so I can only assume the work is done now.

Categories: African American History, Brookhaven, Civil Rights, Columbus, Courthouses, Depots, Historic Preservation, Industrial, Jackson, Kosciusko, MS Dept. of Archives and History, Museums, Natchez, News Roundups, Ocean Springs, Post Offices, Renovation Projects, Summit

5 replies

  1. Wouldn’t the old Municipal Library on State St. just be the coolest place for the civil rights museum? Maybe with a satellite branch in the old Carver Branch Library on Mill St.?
    I nominate this with the Tougaloo Nine in mind as well as that these buildings are just great open spaces, good for a museum. The Carver Branch would require considerable work, but I think the Municipal Library is in mostly good shape.


  2. I agree completely–the old Municipal Library would be a great building for a Civil Rights Museum. Too bad the city let it sit and sit and then sold it.


  3. What? Reuse a building that is associated with the museum’s theme for the museum itself? Isn’t that just crazy talk?

    Okay, sarcasm and joking aside, I really do agree that the library would be a great spot. From what I’m reading, however, it seems that the plan is for a completely new building. There has to be other existing buildings that would work as well – which would be more cost effective than new construction.


  4. I will bet money that the old library will not become the new Civil Rights museum. The Civil Rights museum is not about creativity, history, or even Civil Rights. It is about political expediency. It is about Haley Barbour covering his butt in anticipation for the 2012 Presidential election. Barbour, especially recently, has made numerous idiotic comments about how great Ole Miss was for blacks in the 1960s when he attended and how the Citizens’ Councils were positive, peacemaking forces for Mississippi during the 1950s and 60s. The Civil Rights museum is merely a political act by Barbour to disguise the racist, revisionist history that he spouts out constantly, and, unfortunately, the Civil Rights museum will probably die when Barbour no longer needs it for his political needs.

    I am reminded by a statement in the book Civil Rights Memorials and the Geography of Memory which states that Mississippi does not have Civil Rights memorials like Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee because, unlike in those states, the Civil Rights Movement has not “won” in Mississippi. Merely compare Barbour with his contemporary, Republican next-door-neighbor, Bob Riley to see the difference in attitudes. Bob Riley has not made, nor will he likely make, any comments about how great the University of Alabama was for blacks in the 1960s or about how Bull Connor was a great man. I’ve met Bob Riley; he lives in the real world, not with his head lodged where the sun don’t shine.


    • However, I do not want anyone to interpret my previous comment to mean that I am against the Civil Rights museum. Mississippi deserves a Civil Rights museum; Mississippi deserves several Civil Rights museums, there are enough stories and enough history to fill several museums. Every courthouse lawn in Mississippi should have a Civil Rights memorial/monument to all the brave men and women who fought for the American ideal of democratic equality for all, preferably a memorial of equal size, with placement adjacent to the Confederate memorial. However, the reason the Civil Rights museum is in the news now has nothing to do with honoring the struggle for Civil Rights and everything to do with cheap, dirty politics.


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