WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - A compromise has been reached that will allow the Waveland Ground Zero Museum to remain on Coleman Avenue. As you may recall, controversy erupted after a dispute over ownership of items inside the building and whether or not the museum should be moved.
The dispute lead to city leaders padlocking the building and shutting down the operation. However, after months of negotiations, a deal has been struck to reopen the museum.
The Ground Zero Katrina Museum has been closed for more than two months for inventory. That work, which was at the center of a major controversy, was recently completed.
"The stuff that's there, I know a lot of people worked very hard to get it there, and I as mayor didn't know whose property it was. A lot of it is on loan, like the Katrina blankets that hang in the hallway. They are on permanent loan, but they actually belong to the gentleman whose wife made them. At least this resolution ends it. It's in writing. It's determined," explained Waveland Mayor Mike Smith.
The agreement to keep the museum on Coleman Avenue was hammered out between the city and the museum's board, which falls under the umbrella of the Hancock Chamber's 501-C-3 Foundation.
"The mayor is proposing that the Ground Zero Hurricane Museum become a department of the city. We think that's a wonderful opportunity for the community to see the museum expand, grow and continue to attract visitors to our community," said Tish Williams, Executive Director of the Hancock Chamber.
Part of the agreement is to turn the museum into a Waveland history museum and not just focus on Hurricane Katrina.
"So, you're going to see the Nereid Organization, which is the oldest all female carnival association on all of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. You're going to hear about the Waveland Civic Association. So, it's going to be more than just the Ground Zero Hurricane Museum. It's going to be a glimpse at all of Waveland's history," said Williams.
Before it closed, about 400 visitors a month came to see what the Katrina museum had to offer. Smith says the controversy is unfortunate, but the museum and city will be stronger because of it.
"I hate that it happened like it did, but it's behind us, and we're going to be better for it," said Smith.
City leaders say the museum will remain closed while some minor restoration work is done, which will include installing a dehumidifying system to protect items in the building from mold.
Smith said he hopes the doors can reopen in July.
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