Mississippi is home to a unique-and uniquely varied-natural heritage. The remarkable Mississippi Museum of Natural Science assembles that heritage and places it on display for the education and entertainment of visitors from across the nation and around the globe.
The Museum's outdoor exhibits are designed to give visitors opportunities for nature walks, photography, the study of living things in their environment, and interactive exposure to special topics via an outdoor maze.
From Idea to Exhibit Hall - Summer 2009
If permanent exhibits are the backbone of our museum then special exhibits are a refreshing breath.
Each year the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science selects at least one large and one moderately-sized special exhibit to complement its overall mission and reenergize its message. These special features foster renewed interest from our frequent visitors and spark awareness for folks who have never graced our doors. They bring wonders from across the globe, igniting imaginations and fueling minds with beneficial understanding of our natural world.
Shopping for and deciding which of many tantalizing traveling exhibits to bring here to Mississippi is a big job. Our team of scientists work closely with our exhibit staff to ensure that each exhibit contains relevant biological information, an appropriate educational message, and geographic significance. We spend several months planning, researching, funding, designing, and installing each one, as well as developing educational programming, special events, and promotion.
In choosing special exhibits, one of our first tasks is resolving the logistics of bringing any one of them to our Museum. Is there a time slot on its travel schedule that matches our calendar? What are the costs of rental, shipping, and installation? Are there sponsors, who feel as we do that it has a worthwhile and beneficial message to share with Mississippi families? Do we have enough room within our facilities?
Any of these traveling exhibits can range from 3 to 5 tractor-trailers full of scientific models, fossils, and equipment. On occasion, display components were so large that Museum doors had to be taken down just to get them into the building! Once the main elements are in place, our expert staff complete the installation with lighting, sound, media, and displays from our own collection.
Of course, none of these special exhibits would be possible without our sponsors, whom we recognize at each exhibit, online, and in each Newsline. It is through their generosity that we have been able to provide the most interesting and informative exhibits for our fellow Mississippians.
"Museum Trails Receive New Trees, Nature Journal Boxes and More" - October 2009
The Museum's trail system received considerable attention during the last year. Improvements along the trails came in the form of volunteer projects by students, scouts and adults and via additions funded by grant money from the Recreational Trails Program. The MMNS Foundation provides the 20 percent match money that makes it possible to write RTP grants.
The Boy Scouts of the Andrew Jackson Area Council continue to solve trail problems with their eagle projects: retaining walls, safety railings, bridges, benches, bollards; and added amenities like fire rings, picnic benches, port-a-john platforms and bat houses for the LeFleur's Ridge camping area just off the purple trail along the Pearl River.
One scout project provided nature journal boxes on our slough platforms. These journals are a hit - filled with nature observations, drawings and even poetry. Trail users have taken numerous opportunities to express themselves in writing and say how much they enjoy the Museum's trails and natural area in the middle of Mississippi's largest city.
The trails receive steady foot traffic, and our gravel is always moving down slopes with the combined effects of footsteps, rainfall and gravity. Staff and volunteers help rake gravel back up hill to cover bald spots, fix squeaky steps on stairs, and clear branches and trees that fall onto the trails in storms. The trails require routine maintenance but we also look for ways to improve form and function of our "outdoor exhibits."
With RTP/Foundation money we added some nice outdoor signs that help interpret the ecology of bluff and slough habitats. One of these signs merited its own platform - halfway down the bluff stairs. This created a new educational rest stop/overlook.
Students from Benton Academy and our adult volunteers helped plant 600 cypress, oak, and ash trees along the newly opened water supply pipe right-of-way for the City of Jackson. The pipeline project opened up a 200 foot wide swath ½ mile long through our swamp. We lost some trees, but we planted new ones; and as the swamp recovers we will encourage native species and work to control exotic pest plants like tallow and privet. The work area looked barren and sad last fall when the pipeline crew finished, but now we can use it as a teaching opportunity - to talk about plant succession, wildflowers and pollinators.
Touch Tank Critters Make Friends at Museum - Summer 2009
Come and handle live marine creatures in the Museum's saltwater touch tank for a real hands-on experience!
As a part of 2009 special exhibit, Monsters of the Deep, the Museum is bringing eight different species of inter-tidal animals from behind the aquarium to your fingertips. These harmless sociable critters are ALIVE and provide a firsthand interactive encounter with nature that you won't soon forget. Kids will have the chance to pet and get closely acquainted with some of the friendliest and most unusual critters of the sea.
Learn from our staff of scientists some fascinating facts about these mysterious creatures. For instance, horseshoe crabs probably look like scary monsters of the deep, but they are actually closely related to spiders and may have at some point saved your life! Sea urchins may have hundreds of sharp prickly spines, but some are actually quite friendly and very pettable. Did you know that starfish don't have gills, fins, scales, eyes, or a backbone and are actually not even fish at all? Is a sea cucumber a plant or an animal? Perhaps a more interesting question is, "did that sea cucumber just spit his guts out?! Ewww!"