Biloxi council discusses planned "museum campus"

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Biloxi is considering plans to build a museum project on the old Tullis Manor grounds, right next door to the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art. That four acre site could include the Seafood Industry Museum, Mardi Gras Museum and a new Hurricane Katrina Museum.

Plenty of unanswered questions remain about a planned museum campus. For instance, would those three museums occupy separate buildings, or be under the same roof? And as is the case with many projects, funding is the biggest question mark and concern right now.

Building three new museums next to Ohr-O'Keefe sounds like a workable plan to many.

"We believe it's a good starting place. It's a place of common ground and a place we could come together.  But we're still, we're not moving forward. We're kind of pedaling in place," Seafood Industry Museum board member Kim Ross Bush told the city council.

Leaders of the Seafood Industry Museum are anxious for a new building across from the schooner pier.  And they have no problem including a Katrina Museum in the same building.

"We don't feel that people will just pay to see a Katrina museum, but if all are incorporated into one museum, they would get a lot bigger bang for their buck," said Museum Director Robin Krohn David.

The museum hired a firm to develop preliminary plans:  A 38,000 square foot facility at a cost of $32 million.

"There will also be a gift shop, a research library, a conservation workshop and an artifact receiving and storage area as well as educational and meeting room space," said Krohn David, as she showed a power point presentation outlining preliminary design plans.

The city's chief administrator praised the plans, but said the real issue is money.

"There's no way we can pay for that museum. That can't happen. We just don't have the money," said Chief Administrator David Staehling.

The head of the Mardi Gras museum told the city he's fine sharing a campus, but not under the same roof.

"We think it's just so separate from the seafood industry museum that we need to have our own building to show what Mardi Gras has meant since 1908," said Mardi Gras Museum Director Walter Williams.

Several council members said it's past time to work out the details and time to break ground.

"We just need to get together with the administration and get this project on the road. It's time for us to get started. We're past the clean-up. It's time to start building the City of Biloxi for the future," said Ward 1 City Councilman George Lawrence.

The council directed the administration to draw-up some more specific plans for the museum campus. They've scheduled another workshop in two weeks.

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