Corps wants people with knowledge of MV Mississippi IV

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 16, 2011

Maritime historians are looking for a few good storytellers.

They are seeking people to give presentations aboard the MV Mississippi IV for exhibits planned inside the Lower Mississippi River Museum and Interpretive Center being built downtown by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“We’re looking for pictures and stories,” said Alainna O’Bannon of the Corps’ museum design team. “Anything that will help show a day in the life on the boat.”

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The Corps has hired Southeastern Archeological Research Inc. to gather input from people with “firsthand knowledge of daily operations of the vessel,” a release issued Friday said. Members of the cultural resource management firm toured the vessel Tuesday and already have “a lot of great ideas,” O’Bannon said.

Jason Burns, a maritime archeologist with the firm’s Pensacola, Fla., office, said ideas gathered are likely to draw a line from the vessel’s construction and use by the Corps from 1960 to 1993 to its dramatic “roll” down Washington Street in 2007 to prepare for its transformation into the $16 million museum centerpiece.

“I think the first question people will have is, ‘How did they drive it up there?’” Burns said, adding an interpretive plan comprised of what is gathered from the public should be sent to the Corps by mid-November.

The museum, set to open in August 2012, will feature touch-screen displays, videos of the Corps and the river, a simulated steering exhibit and a scale model of the Mississippi River between Levee Street and the railroad tracks, project manager Mike Renacker said. Moving the Fairground Street bridge to the site and turning it into a walkway depends on having enough funds in fiscal 2012, Renacker said. About $3 million remains in the museum’s overall appropriation, he said.

The Mississippi River’s historic spring flood backed up water from the Yazoo Diversion Canal onto grounds below steel framework that is to become the museum’s main building. Project officials have said the effects were minor and the building is about a third of the way through construction. Work was halted for five months in 2010 when the city’s main water line had to be relocated when a land shift compromised a retaining wall near the vessel.

The museum was authorized by Congress in 1992. In 1995, the City of Vicksburg purchased the boat from the Memphis District for $1. Land at the museum site was deeded to the Corps in 2007, when the vessel was painted and outfitted to house exhibits. Ground was broken on the museum’s building in 2009.