MDAH News

State Archives Collects Items Related to COVID-19 Pandemic, Summer of Activism

MDAH is continuing to fulfill its mission of empowering people through Mississippi’s many stories by collecting artifacts that document today’s unprecedented times in our state’s history. Mississippi, like the nation, is currently in the midst of a global health pandemic, an economic recession, and a new movement for social justice. MDAH archivists and collections staff have taken on a new task to accumulate an assortment of memorabilia that will preserve the stories of this historic time in Mississippi.

“This is really a crucial change in how we look at collecting,” said Shane Keil, MDAH director of curatorial services. “Much of what we traditionally do involves searching for objects that represent an era in the past. Now we’re looking at current events and searching for objects that will represent this period of pandemic and societal change.”

 Local industries have transitioned to manufacture vital safety items such as sanitizers, face coverings, and disinfectant cleaners. MDAH has added several of these limited items to its collections to depict adapting to a pandemic in the state.

“In the early stages of the pandemic, we began to identify certain artifacts that we would like to collect such as homemade face masks and COVID-19 closure signs,” said Nan Prince, MDAH director of collections. “The Nissan plant in Canton began making face shields for healthcare workers, and we asked them for one to collect. When alcohol industries such as Cathead Distillery, Rich Grain Distillery, and Lazy Magnolia Brewery began making much-needed hand sanitizer, we reached out to collect samples of those bottles. These items are now on display in our Mississippi Distilled: Prohibition, Piety, and Politics exhibit.”

Mississippi has also seen a societal change in the wake of George Floyd’s death and other police brutality cases in the nation. A new wave of social activism among Mississippians stirred citywide protests and rallies against racial discrimination and on June 30, Governor Tate Reeves signed a historic bill to retire the 1894 state flag that contained the Confederate battle flag. MDAH now has the last state flag that flew over the state capitol and will soon have it on display at the Museum of Mississippi History.

“The material we’ve collected from the ongoing racial equality and social justice movements is really a continuation of the civil rights story told in the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum,” said Keil. “We’ve reached out to contacts in the social justice movement and collected ‘I Can’t Breathe’ face masks as well as various signs from protests at the State Capitol and Governor’s Mansion.”

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, MDAH has taken a new direction in utilizing digital content and online resources in its operations. Archives and records are available online for public research requests and museums are now featuring digital programming and social media to highlight collections and artifacts in galleries online.

“While we were closed due to the pandemic, we continued communicating via email with potential donors to give their collections to MDAH,” said Laura Heller, MDAH acquisitions and collections coordinator. “We have encouraged donors to communicate more through email and use smart phone pictures to show the artifacts they would like for us to consider accepting into our collections.”

By collecting these artifacts for historical interpretation and preservation, MDAH is preserving the stories of Mississippi during the COVID-19 pandemic for future generations to remember.

“Documenting these experiences during a pandemic brings a multi-layered story that people can use in the years to come,” said Heller. “The record of these times will show how Mississippians pulled together in a time of need.”

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Natchez Outbuilding Survey Awarded NPS Grant

The National Park Service (NPS) has awarded the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) $50,000 in support of the Natchez Outbuilding Survey, a study of nineteenth-century structures built adjacent to antebellum houses in the Natchez area. Of particular focus are the living quarters of enslaved persons and the kitchens, smokehouses, and agricultural buildings where they labored.

The Natchez Outbuilding Survey is a partnership between MDAH and the Historic Natchez Foundation. The money from the NPS Underrepresented Communities Grant will be used to hire a consultant to prepare a National Register of Historic Places nomination. MDAH will issue a request for proposals for the project this month, and the work is expected to be completed in 2023.

“The information gathered through the Natchez Outbuilding Survey has deepened our understanding of nineteenth-century life in Mississippi and the architecture of slavery in the Natchez region,” said MDAH director Katie Blount. “We are especially grateful for our partnership with the Historic Natchez Foundation, and we are thankful to the National Park Service for funding this initiative.”

“The Historic Natchez Foundation is thrilled that MDAH has received an Underrepresented Community Grant from the National Park Service for the Natchez Outbuilding project,” said Carter Burns, executive director of the Historic Natchez Foundation. “We are proud to partner with MDAH on this important endeavor to document and study more than 150 of these structures, which are closely associated with the lives of enslaved African Americans. This grant recognizes the importance of these sites by enabling their nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.”

The Natchez Outbuilding Survey has uncovered information about how enslaved people moved within their environments through examinations of slave outbuildings floorplans, the location of windows and doors, circulation patterns between the outbuildings and the main house, and lines of sight between buildings.

“This thematic nomination will place the important collection of Natchez outbuildings into a national conversation about the landscapes of slavery and servitude,” said MDAH chief architectural historian Jennifer Baughn. “We can see how owners designed control mechanisms for supervision, but also how enslaved people could carve out spaces where they had some agency.”

Natchez was the location of the Forks of the Road, one of the largest slave markets in the United States. Wealthy planters, who accumulated their wealth through slave labor, built what architectural historians have termed “suburban villas” in the town. Enslaved people lived in housing detached from the villas. Researchers estimate Natchez has the largest concentration of slave-related sites in the nation.

By preserving Mississippi's diverse historic resources, and sharing them with people around the world, MDAH inspires discovery of stories that connect our lives and shape our future. For more information email info@mdah.ms.gov.

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MDAH Awarded NPS Grant to Ensure Return of Tribal Ancestors

The National Park Service has awarded $88,822 to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) to support efforts to return the Native American human remains in its archaeological collections to present-day Tribes. MDAH will use the money to hire a new collections manager, provide paid internships for Tribal partners, purchase equipment, and provide staff training.

The Chickasaw Nation and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma supported the grant and will provide guidance as MDAH staff document the human remains and ceremonial objects from graves in northeast Mississippi. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) requires consultation with Tribes whose ancestors lived on the land where graves were located.

“One of the department’s highest priorities is the proper care of its significant archaeological collection,” said MDAH director Katie Blount. “In keeping with our standards of excellence, we are embarking on this project with renewed dedication to collaborating with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and Chickasaw Nation while becoming fully compliant with NAGPRA.”

MDAH sought the grant after discovering that some of its collection had not been appropriately inventoried. “With this funding, we will properly catalog NAGPRA collections while strengthening our relationships with Tribal partners though a transparent dialogue,” said Meg Cook, director of MDAH archaeology collections. “The project allows us to honor and best care for these individuals through the purchase of culturally appropriate curation material. We do not lose sight of the fact that we are working with people—mothers, fathers, and children.”

“The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Historic Preservation Department congratulates the Mississippi Department of Archives and History as NAGPRA grant recipients,” said Deanna Byrd, NAGPRA liaison for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. “Our THPO and NAGPRA liaison look forward to working with all of our Tribal partners and MDAH’s compassionate professionals to help facilitate the return of our ancestors. We are committed to supporting MDAH in this collaborative process and know it will be rewarding. Our ancestors will finally know the peace we envisioned for them."

For more information email info@mdah.ms.gov.

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State Flag Commission Selects Two Finalists

On Tuesday, August 25, members of the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag met and chose two flags designs to advance. Images of “The Great River Flag” and “The New Magnolia Flag” have been placed on the MDAH website, alongside a new nonbinding public poll: www.mdah.ms.gov/flagpoll-top2.

Before convening for discussion, commission members gathered at the Old Capitol Museum and viewed each of the five flag finalists, which had been manufactured and were raised on the flagpole. Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann and several state legislators were present.

Commission chair Reuben Anderson presided at the meeting, which took place at the Two Mississippi Museums. Anderson was joined by Cyrus Ben, Sherri Carr Bevis, Frank Bordeaux, Mary Graham, Betsey Hamilton, Robyn Tannehill, T.J. Taylor, and J. Mack Varner.

Information about the flag designs and a comment section are included with the public poll. The comment period and poll and will expire at noon on September 1.

The commission will choose the final design during its September 2 meeting and report its selection to the governor and legislature.

The minutes of the August 18 meeting are posted here. For more information email info@mdah.ms.gov.

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State Flag Commission Selects Five Finalists

The Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag selected five flags to move to the final round (pending clearance of intellectual property rights). The five designs and a new nonbinding public poll have been placed on the MDAH website at www.mdah.ms.gov/flagpoll-top5.  

The five designs will be manufactured into flags, and at the August 25 meeting, commissioners will meet in front of the Old Capitol Museum where each flag will be raised on the flag pole.

The commission will choose the final design during their September 2 meeting and report that selection to the governor and legislature. 

For more information email info@mdah.ms.gov.

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Flag Commission Chooses Nine Finalists

On August 14, the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag selected nine designs to advance to the next round (pending clearance of intellectual property rights).

In attendance were Reuben Anderson, Cyrus Ben, Sherri Carr Bevis, Frank Bordeaux, Mary Graham, Betsey Hamilton, Robyn Tannehill, and J. Mack Varner. T. J. Taylor joined the meeting via Zoom. The meeting was held at the Two Mississippi Museums.

The nine flags and a nonbinding public poll have been placed on the MDAH website: https://www.mdah.ms.gov/flagpoll. A public comment period will begin on August 25. The poll and comments section will close at noon on September 1.

The commission will meet again on August 18 (8 a.m.), August 25 (10:30 a.m.), and September 2 (10:30 a.m.). The commission will select a design to submit to the governor and the legislature at the September 2 meeting.

The minutes for the July 28 meeting are available here. Watch the August 14 meeting on the MDAH Facebook page. For more information email info@mdah.ms.gov.

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View Submissions for the New Mississippi State Flag

 Updated Aug. 10, 2020: The commissioners have narrowed their choices to 147. View their choices at https://picti.net/X7UB8.


The Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag has received nearly 3,000 submissions that meet the legislative criteria. View the flags here.

The commissioners will each choose twenty-five flags by August 7, narrowing the entries to a maximum of 225. Commission members will then rank their top ten choices.

During the next meeting on August 14, the commissioners will select five flags for final consideration. These five flags will be placed on the MDAH website for public comment. Read more about the process here.

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Community Heritage Preservation Grant Applications Open

MDAH is accepting applications for preservation projects across the state. The 2020 Mississippi Legislature has provided funding for another round of the Community Heritage Preservation Grant (CHPG) Program, which helps preserve, restore, rehabilitate, and interpret historic courthouses and schools. In Certified Local Government communities, grant funds may also be used for projects involving historic buildings other than courthouses or schools.

The MDAH Board of Trustees will award the grants at a special meeting in December. County or municipal governments, school districts, and nonprofit organizations granted 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status may submit applications. A cash match of at least twenty percent is required, and grant awards are reimbursed upon the successful completion of the project.

Guidelines and applications may be downloaded from the following link: CHPG Application. The deadline to submit completed applications is October 2. For more information call 601-576-6940.

The fifty-five CLG communities in Mississippi are Aberdeen, Baldwyn, Biloxi, Booneville, Brandon, Canton, Carrollton, Carthage, Claiborne County, Clarksdale, Cleveland, Clinton, Columbia, Columbus, Como, Corinth, Durant, Gautier, Greenville, Greenwood, Hattiesburg, Hazlehurst, Hernando, Holly Springs, Indianola, Jackson, Kosciusko, Laurel, Leland, Lexington, Louisville, McComb, Meridian, Mound Bayou, Mount Olive, Natchez, New Albany, Newton, Ocean Springs, Oxford, Pascagoula, Philadelphia, Port Gibson, Quitman, Raymond, Senatobia, Sharkey County, Starkville, Tunica, Tupelo, Vicksburg, Water Valley, West, West Point, and Woodville.

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Commission Approves Process of Selecting New Flag, Chooses Meeting Dates

The Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag met on Tuesday, July 28, at the Two Mississippi Museums—the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. Present were Reuben Anderson, Cyrus Ben, Sherri Carr Bevis, Frank Bordeaux, Betsey Hamilton, T.J. Taylor, and J. Mack Varner. Mary Graham and Robyn Tannehill joined the meeting via Zoom.

After Reuben Anderson called the meeting to order, the commission unanimously approved a plan for reviewing the hundreds of flag submissions and selecting a flag for the ballot by September 2. Only flags submitted by August 1 that meet the legislative criteria will be considered.

The flag submissions will be placed on the Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s website for public view on August 3. The commissioners will each choose twenty-five flags by August 7, narrowing more than a thousand entries to a maximum of 225. Commission members will then rank their top ten choices.

During the next meeting on August 14, the commissioners will select five flags for final consideration. These five flags will be placed on the MDAH website for public comment.

After expert Clay Moss presented about the principles of flag design, the commissioners voted to meet again on August 25 and September 2. The commission will select the final flag to submit to the governor and the Legislature at the September 2 meeting.

Each of the upcoming meetings will stream live on MDAH Facebook page. Watch the July 28 meeting here. The minutes from the July 22 are located here. For more information email info@mdah.ms.gov.

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Flag Commission Sets August 1 as New Deadline for Flag Design Submissions

At its first meeting held on July 22 at the Two Mississippi Museums, the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag set August 1 as the new deadline for the public to submit designs for a new state flag. The deadline will allow the commission to complete its work in time for ballots to be printed for the November 3 election.

Commissioners unanimously elected Reuben Anderson to serve as chairman. Anderson, a former Mississippi Supreme Court justice, serves as president of the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Other commission members present at the meeting included Sherri Carr Bevis, T.J. Taylor, and J. Mack Varner. Robyn Tannehill and Mary Graham joined the meeting via Zoom. House Speaker Philip Gunn welcomed the commissioners and thanked them for their service.

Flag designs may be emailed to emcraney@mdah.ms.gov. Submissions may also be mailed to Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, P.O. Box 571, Jackson, MS, 39205-0571.

For more information email info@mdah.ms.gov.

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