The children of Mississippi will receive a huge Christmas gift in December 2009 when the Mississippi Children’s Museum will open after years of planning and development.
The museum will be located at LeFleur’s Bluff State Park in a 43,500-square-foot facility located on four acres of land.
“We’ve been a little off schedule due to negotiations with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks concerning conversion of the property,” says Dr. John W. Jordan, executive director for the museum. “We are set to break ground in April 2008.”
The Junior League of Jackson took on the development of the children’s museum from a private group of individuals in 1996.
“The Junior League had a strong track record of taking on signature projects,” says Jordan. “One very high-profile signature project they’ve taken on is the Children’s Cancer Clinic at UMC.”
At the time the Junior League took over the museum project, the Legislature had already passed a bond bill of $2 million. The Junior League pledged another $1 million to get the ball rolling.
“Fundraising began in earnest in the summer of 2005, but then Katrina blew in, and that stopped everything,” explains Jordan. “We didn’t start fundraising again until January 2006. So far, we’ve raised $16.5 million. With so many great organizations trying to raise funds, we’re humbled that people and businesses have been so generous to us.”
Jordan says the projected cost for the museum will be $22.5 million.
“Of course, as each day goes by, the cost can increase,” Jordan says.
Canizaro Cawthon Davis Architects is approximately 80% complete with the plans for the building.
“Our exhibit designers are 100% complete with their designs. All the exhibits will be custom fabricated for the museum. That’s not something you can just go out and buy, so that really makes things expensive.” Jordan explains that the exhibits have to be worthwhile, hands-on exhibits that will stand up to the curiosity of kids for years to come.
“Any support we can get at this point is critical to getting the museum off the ground,” says Jordan. “We have five regional gatherings planned statewide this fall. We are soliciting big donations from both individuals and businesses. The marketing payoff for a business is tremendous.” For example, Viking Range in Greenwood has come on board as a major sponsor. “The museum will feature a demonstration kitchen that will utilize Viking products.”
The main themes of the museum will be health and literacy. “Those are the two areas our children need to focus on the most in Mississippi,” Jordan explains. “We’ll have five major exhibit areas. In addition to the health and literacy areas, which will also be woven throughout all the exhibits, we’ll have a ‘world at work’ area, ‘Mississippi heritage’ area and an area that focuses on the arts.” Jordan says that there is one other children’s museum in the state. “The Lynn Meadows Children’s Museum on the Coast is excellent, but this one will be much bigger. We’ll augment what they are doing and hope to become a great partner with them.”
For more information on the Mississippi Children’s Museum, visit www.mschildrensmuseum.com online or call (601) 481-5469.