The newest exhibit at the Old Capitol Museum is one that Director of Exhibits Clay Williams says is "more fun" than their typical exhibits. What makes this one different? The Mississippi History A to Z exhibit features artifacts that pertain to Mississippi's history, each artifact corresponding to a letter of the alphabet.
From a German World War I machine gun from 1917 to a quilt made in the 1840s, this exhibit, which began in March, draws from the museum's permanent collection of more than 12,000 items: aprons, buttons, communion sets, figurines, hats, jugs, knives, uniforms, veils, xylographs and yearbooks.
Williams said their goal was to draw from a wide range of subjects to ensure that every one could find something of interest at the exhibit: "We did an exhibit on Elvis a couple of years ago. If you hate Elvis, you wouldn't want to come, but in this exhibit there is something for everyone, from military history to pop culture, and from the territorial period to recent history."
Other objects on display include a slave tag from 1838, a gown worn in 1976 by Lt. Governor Evelyn Gandy, the first woman elected as lieutenant governor of Mississippi and an RCA "Radiola" Super-Heterodyne radio from 1923. Williams explained that the museum was in between bigger exhibits, and was looking for something not as "research heavy," so he collaborated with others, going through the alphabet, coming up with artifact options. Originally, "for each letter, we had five or six options, not just military (relics)," Williams said.
This exhibit is good for kids and for all ages, Williams said. For instance, D stands for dolls, and his 2-year-old daughter was immediately drawn to the dolls when she came to the exhibit.
"Normally, when we do an exhibit, it's very scholarly. This is lighthearted and cute. It doesn't take all day to go through it, and people can walk to whatever catches their eye, instead of having to go in a particular order," Williams said.
The exhibit begins with a 1912 apron made for a blacksmith by a slave's grandson and ends with a swamp cane basket woven by Choctaw craftsman Zula Chitto. Other items on display deal with art, politics and healthcare, among other things.
The oldest exhibit on display is a silver punch ladle made in 1777 that belonged to the William Dunbar family of Natchez, and the most recent item is a Jackson Daily News newspaper rack from 1985. Williams said that thus far the feedback from the public concerning this exhibit has been very positive.
"Instead of one story, this exhibit is 26 stories," Williams said. "For this one, we bring out all of our collection, ones we don't usually display."
In connection with the Mississippi History exhibit, the museum will offer "Personal Treasures: Their Identification and Care" on Friday and Saturday, June 3 and 4, wherein experts help identify items brought by the public. Categories will include textiles, military items, archaeological objects, paper, photographs, maps and small household furnishings.
The Old Capitol Museum of Mississippi History, on State Street at Capitol, is a National Historic Landmark administered by the Department of Archives and History. The Old Capitol, originally called the State House, served as state capitol from 1839 to 1903. At that time, efforts were made to destroy the building, which was decaying, but laregely through the efforts of women's preservation groups, the building was saved and was turned into the state office building in 1917. From 1961 to the present, the building has served as the state historical museum.
Mississippi History A to Z runs through September 25, and admission is free.
Groups of ten or more are encouraged to call in advance to schedule weekday reservations. The Museum's hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, and 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. p.m. Sunday. For more information, call the Old Capitol Museum at (601) 576-6920.