A good way to acquaint yourself with the history of Mississippi is to visit the Old Capitol Museum. Constructed in 1839, this Greek-Revival building was Mississippi's state capitol until 1903. Today, it houses many exhibits about the state's history. Native-American artifacts include an authentic canoe and fragments of pottery. There are also artifacts from the first European explorations of the area during the 1500s. One room focuses on the Civil War and Reconstruction, with a large collection of weapons, flags, and uniforms.
Another room presents the story of the rise of industry in the 20th century, with exhibits about the timber industry, railroads, textiles and scientific advancements with the cotton industry, and the rise in popularity of the Mississippi Delta Blues.
There is also a room containing exhibits about the 1960s Civil Rights struggle, much of which took place in this state. This exhibit was the first of its kind in America.
Interesting architectural features of this building include its twin spiral stairways and rotunda, where a large Christmas tree is displayed during the holidays. Special events, such as concerts, literary readings, and historical demonstrations, are also held here on a regular basis.
The House of Representatives once played host to orators like Jefferson Davis and Henry Clay. It was also in this room that Mississippi seceded from the Union in 1861.
A gift shop features books and souvenirs pertaining to the state's history. This is a wonderful structure and would be a great tourist attraction based on its architecture alone. The exhibits inside, however, are outstanding in their own right. I highly recommend this as a stop on any trip to Jackson.
Admission is free. The museum is open 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday, 9:30 to 4:30 on Saturdays, and 12:30 to 4:30 on Sundays. For more information, visit www.mdah.state.ms.us.
While at the Old Capitol, be sure to check out the nearby War Memorial Building. This monument honors Mississippi’s fallen heroes of all American wars. It is a very touching memorial to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Also nearby is the State Archives and History Library. The second oldest of its kind in the United States, and it contains a wealth of genealogical records and information about the history of Mississippi. It is open Mondays from 9am to 5pm, Tues day through Friday from 8am to 5pm, and Saturdays from 8am to 1pm.
The "New Capitol," located at 400 High St., was constructed in 1903. Similar in architectural style to the U.S. Capitol, the interior is highlighted by marble and stained-glass throughout. Guided tours are free and take you through the executive and legislative chambers. The Hall of Governors is a portrait gallery of every Mississippi governor. The Capitol grounds are dotted with monuments to notable Mississipians. The most notable of these features an angel comforting the wife of a Confederate soldier. It is dedicated to the women of the Confederacy. A golden eagle on the façade of the building seems to keep watch over the city. Give yourself about an hour and a half at the state capitol. It is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm.