GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Museums typically document history instead of living through it, but that wasn’t the case for the Gulfport Museum of History while facing the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We opened in March and we closed eight days later,” said Betty Shaw, president of the Historical Society of Gulfport.
Before the days of the health crisis, the city’s historical society welcomed a steady stream of guests.
“Many of them were vacationers that were coming to town and others were people that were just happy that we were here.” said Shaw.
But as COVID-19 started to impact the Magnolia State, merchandise sales and visitor donations started to decline. At times, the museum and the society had to rely only on the income from their memberships to help pay the bills.
But the pandemic wasn’t done yet, striking a blow to the group’s monthly meetings.
“We had almost 40 people attending,” Shaw said. “It was really good and very successful but we had too many people.”
While organizers say the situation is disheartening, there was a sense of positivity when looking at Gulfport’s past.
“This is a hard time but people in this area have gone through hard times before.” Shaw said.
After a year of COVID-19 lockdowns, social distancing guidelines and a hit to both tourism and travel, organizers hope 2021 has better days for both the museum and the historical society.
“We strictly don’t know where we’re going to go from here. We just know we probably need to change direction a little bit.” said Shaw.
The group could place more emphasis on research capabilities in the future.
“We’re going to maybe change our focus a little bit and concentrate also on the archives,” Shaw said. “People can come in even by appointment and look up things they are interested in.”
There is also hope to engage more with the city’s schools.
“Outreach is really what we’re interested in and we are interested in getting young people in,” Shaw said.
While the group faces hardships right now, organizers say they won’t be history anytime soon.
“We’re going to continue on,” said Shaw. “We’re not folding.”
The Gulfport Museum of History is located at 1419 27th Avenue and is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Admission is free.