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A twenty-five-foot-long dugout became the first of 17,000 artifacts to enter the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum last week. The circa-1500 Native American canoe was brought in through the front doors since it was too long to fit on the freight elevator. It will be positioned in “The First Peoples” gallery of the MMH.

The other artifacts entered the facility via the rear loading dock and into the new, state-of-the-art collection facilities where MDAH staff has begun unpacking and shelving many of the items. Some 1,800 of the objects will be prepared for display in the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

The bald cypress canoe was discovered submerged in mud on a bank of Swan Lake in Washington County in 1989. The dugout is between 400 and 500 years old, dating to the late Mississippian period, and was constructed using a variety of techniques, including controlled burning, chipping, and scraping.

Due to the historical significance of the collection, specialized movers were hired load, transport, and unload the artifacts. Artemis Fine Arts Services, based in Dallas, Texas, conducted the move with a team of eight people. Artemis works primarily with museums, galleries, collectors, and other members of the fine art community.

“Our collection spans 500 years of history, with artifacts ranging from trade beads from the DeSoto era to a window unit air conditioner from the 1950s,” said Nan Prince, MDAH curator of collections. “We are very excited to move into our new collections storage space. Years of planning have gone into creating the best facilities to house and preserve our artifacts for generations to come.”

Construction of the new museums is expected to be completed in early fall. Exhibit fabrication and installation in each museum began in March and is expected to be complete by November, with artifact installation beginning in October. The Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum will open on Saturday, December 9, 2017. The opening day celebration will begin at 11 a.m. There will be free admission all weekend.

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