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Summer spotlight: Mississippi Museum of Natural Science

Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
Photo courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks

The Mississippi Museum of Natural Science is described by many as one of the most treasured gems in the capital city of Jackson.

Housed in LeFleur’s Bluff, the museum has been in operation since 1932 but has evolved over the years to feature more than 200 living species including multiple fish populations, alligators, snakes, and turtles in a 100,000-gallon aquarium network and 73,000 square feet of permanent and temporary exhibits.

An alligator lying next to a pair of turtles in one of the aquariums at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science

“The first time I walked through that door, this place made a huge impression on me. It was beautiful. It was world-class. It was this wonderful hybrid between something you should find in a city, but is completely nestled in nature,” Nicole Smith, the museum’s event planner who also serves as a conservation educator, said.

The constant flow of educational exhibits and indoor amenities are just the beginning of what the facility has to offer. While visitors can learn of Mississippi’s rich natural history and enjoy visible displays of aquatic and land-based species native to the state, attendees can also get in touch with nature up close and personally on one of the museum’s numerous outdoor walking trails.

“You can explore these aquariums. You can see the exhibits. You can interact with the staff that are working here,” Smith added. “But almost best of all, are the trails because you can go out any door and it takes you to the beginning of a trail leading you on a nature hike.”

The trails at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science give walkers a chance to explore nature in an intimate setting.

Beginning Saturday, the museum will transport visitors to eras long past through its incoming exhibit, Dinosaurs Around the World: The Great Outdoors. The outdoor and indoor exhibit, which will run through January 5, 2025, will feature 11 animatronic dinosaurs, showcase cutting-edge research, and provide a tour of what Earth looked like during the Mesozoic Era.

Animatronics will include the mighty T. rex of North America, the bi-pedal predator Herrerasaurus, one of the first dinosaurs to appear on Earth, and the bizarre, bony-crested Oviraptor from Mongolia.

Animatronic displays of dinosaurs will be both inside and outside at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science.

“So many people, when they think of dinosaurs, they think of the bones in the ground. That’s our first thought, and it may be that those bones are big. It’s one thing to know that dinosaurs are big, but it’s quite another to see an animal created to scale in model form,” Smith said. “It will throw you in a brilliant way. You will get a deeper appreciation for those animals.”

This year, as children continue to enjoy the various summer camps the museum has to offer, staff will also be hosting dinosaur-themed “Fun Fridays” every Friday in June and July. From 10 a.m. until 12 p.m., interactive stations including crafts, games, or demonstrations aimed at teaching youth more about the extinct animals.

The Mississippi Museum of Natural Science hosts events catered to children throughout the year.

For those eager to learn more about the history of animals and other species native to the Magnolia State from experts, the museum has restarted its noon lecture program, which runs on the first Tuesday of each month. On July 2, staff paleontologist George Phillips will expound on the dinosaurs of Mississippi. The lectures are more catered to adult audiences.

The Mississippi Museum of Natural Science is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday’s operating hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the museum being open on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for senior citizens, $6 for children ages 3-18, and free for those under 3 years old. Annual membership passes can be purchased for individuals for $50 and $100 for families.

“It’s an absolute jewel. This is something our state should be incredibly proud of. We have people from all over the country to see this place,” Smith said.

“We have exceptional programs. We have incredible field trip opportunities for kids. We have beautiful permanent exhibits. We have events that are good for adults and kids alike. We see around 100,000 visitors a year and yet it feels absolutely like home. It’s one of the best things in Mississippi and we’re so lucky it’s here in Jackson.”

More information on the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science can be found here.

The above article is one of eight stories that will be presented by SuperTalk Mississippi News throughout the summer months, highlighting some of the “gems” that make Mississippi a great place to live, work, and play. 

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