HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Progress continues at the old Eureka School in Hattiesburg with plans to turn the site into a civil rights museum.
"This is so important because this is a significant building, a significant story that we want to tell," said General Manager for Museums Latoya Norman.
Rick Taylor, the Executive Director of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, said the construction phase, with a total project cost estimated around $1.6 million, is nearing it's end. That means the next phase can get started, which is the design of the museum.
"It's a big step forward," said Taylor. "We believe that will lead us then to a two-year process and allow us to open the Eureka School as a civil rights museum."
"There are so many stories we want to tell and there's an art and a science," Norman said. "We know the space that we have, we'll start to talk to community members and find out what stories they want to see and if they have contributions to help us share those stories."
Norman said there is about 18,000 square-feet available inside the school to use for exhibits. While some stories will center around the school, Norman hopes to also tell stories from the Freedom Summer of '64 and the integration of the University of Southern Mississippi and William Carey University.
"This building that's here, there are a lot of great stories that come from this building," Norman said. "But, it was a struggle for African Americans to get to this point now, so it's really important we be able to highlight and show that history so people can learn from it."
In the Hattiesburg Convention Commission's budget, which was approved by City Council earlier this month, $200,000 is allocated to partnering with the City to create a Longleaf Trace extension up the old Graveline Railbed to establish an alternative transportation route to the "East Sixth Street Museum District."
"There's actually a railbed that runs from 4th street where Longleaf Trace crosses right beside the the African American Military Museum and right where we hope to place the Osceola McCarty House," said Taylor. "So our goal is to turn that into a spur off the Longleaf Trace and let people from the trace come right to the museums."
If you have any artifacts or stories you would like to share with the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, you can call the African American Military History Museum at (601) 450 - 1942.