Two short documentary films created for the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum (MCRM) have been honored by the American Alliance of Museums. The museum’s Chaney, Goodman, Schwerner Theater won a gold MUSE award for Video, Film, and Computer Animation, while the MCRM’s Freedom Summer Immersive Theater won an honorable mention in the same category.
Jury members for the national competition called the Chaney Goodman Schwerner Theater “an essential cultural experience for all ages.” They praised the “scale and shape of the projected images, which quite literally spill on the walls and floor, [and] involve the viewer emotionally and intellectually from a fresh perspective.”
The film, one of five original video pieces that are shown only in the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, is narrated by longtime WLBT news anchor Howard Ballou. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History worked with Monadnock Media to create the film and theater. “It was a dark moment in Mississippi's history and a challenging story to tell without sensationalizing it,” said Steven Bressler, executive director of Monadnock Media, Inc. “But we felt it was important to immerse visitors in this tragic event, which we did by projecting imagery onto a distorted, three-dimensional space.”
Jury members said the Freedom Summer theater “takes immersion to the next level. Inside a recreated Mississippi-style country church viewers are invited to sit in the pews to experience an innovative way of presenting first-person narratives. With unique uses of auxiliary lights and sound, this program succeeds in providing a physical context to draw nearer to the stories of struggle for freedom and equality.”
The MUSE awards competition received more than 200 applications from institutions in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. Winning projects for each category are chosen by more than ninety gallery, library, archive, and museum professionals from across the world. Entries were judged based on their ability to demonstrate outstanding achievement in their content, design, interface, technical merit, accessibility, innovation, and appeal. This year’s entries included videos and films, interactive kiosks and installations, mobile applications, podcasts, digital communities, and more.
“It’s always gratifying to have other museum professionals appreciate the hard and difficult work that went into the creation of this museum,” said MDAH Museum Division director Lucy Allen, who accepted the award. “We are truly honored to receive this recognition.”
The AAM represents more than 35,000 museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field.
The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum shares the stories of a Mississippi movement that changed the nation. Visitors witness the freedom struggle in eight interactive galleries that show the systematic oppression of black Mississippians and their fight for equality that transformed the state and nation. Seven of the galleries encircle a central space called “This Little Light of Mine.” There, a dramatic sculpture glows brighter and the music of the Movement swells as visitors gather.
The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum opened alongside the Museum of Mississippi History in December 2017 in celebration of the state's bicentennial. The Museum of Mississippi History explores the entire sweep of the state's history. The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, the first state-operated civil rights museum in the country, explores the period from 1945 to 1976, when Mississippi was ground zero for the Civil Rights Movement nationally. The museums are open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.