The state history museum’s collection dates back to artifacts acquired in the early days of the 110-year-old Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Initially housed in the state capitol, the small but popular exhibits featured military artifacts, fossilized bones, and even a ceremonial Polynesian head-dress. Over the decades the collection continued to grow and focus more on materials directly related to the state’s history. MDAH now has the world’s finest collection of Mississippi artifacts, including a rare 1818 Twenty-Star U.S. flag, an original Bowie knife, slave-made quilts, and prehistoric Native American artifacts.
In 1961 the state history museum opened in the rehabilitated Old Capitol in downtown Jackson. While that site provided a grand setting, ongoing maintenance issues and limitations of a historic structure convinced the Mississippi Legislature that a new building should be constructed for the state history museum. The Old Capitol would then be fully restored and opened as a museum interpreting the history of the building, which served as the seat of Mississippi’s government from 1839 until 1903. In 1998 the Legislature authorized the department to begin planning a new Museum of Mississippi History.