The Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum—two new interconnected museums that will take visitors through the sweep of Mississippi history and the state’s role as ground zero in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement—will open in Jackson on Saturday.

The Civil Rights Museum includes an exhibit about the murders of three civil rights workers in Neshoba County in 1964.

The museums will combine interactive visitor experiences with exhibits showcasing artifacts including a 500-year-old dugout canoe discovered submerged in mud on the bank of a lake and the doors of the Bryant Grocery that 14-year-old Emmett Till walked through before the fateful encounter with the shopkeeper that led to his murder in the summer of 1955.

“These museums are telling the stories of Mississippi history in all of their complexity,” said Katie Blount, director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, which operates the two new museums. “We are shying away from nothing. Understanding where we are today is shaped in every way by where we have come from in our past.”

The museums will open with a ceremony beginning at 11 a.m., December 9, on the museum grounds, the culmination of Mississippi’s bicentennial celebration. Speakers will include Mrs. Myrlie Evers, Congressman John Lewis, Governor Phil Bryant, and former governors Haley Barbour and William F. Winter.

Mississippi’s former history museum was closed after Hurricane Katrina ripped apart its roof in 2005. The two new museums will expand the way the state’s history is presented, from?prehistoric times to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond. Both museums will use Mississippi’s rich tradition of storytelling to showcase the compelling lives of ordinary people who made extraordinary contributions to the state and the nation.

 The Mississippi Legislature provided $90 million for the museums. Another $19 million has been raised through private donations for exhibits and endowments.

The two museums share a lobby, auditorium, classrooms, collection storage, and exhibit workshop for a facility that covers a total of 200,000 square feet—the equivalent of three and a half football fields.

The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum’s eight galleries chronicle the events of the national Civil Rights Movement that took place in Mississippi. In the first and second galleries, a timeline illustrates the history of Africans in Mississippi, slavery, and the origins of the Jim Crow era.

The heart of the museum is the third gallery—a central space lit by a dramatic light sculpture that plays the museum’s theme song, “This Little Light of Mine”—highlighting people who laid down their lives for the Movement.

The next four galleries focus on the years 1945-1975. Visitors will see the mug shots of every Freedom Rider arrested in Mississippi and hear the stories of Civil Rights Veterans such as Fannie Lou Hamer, Vernon Dahmer, and Medgar Evers. The eighth and final gallery—Where Do We Go From Here?—challenges visitors to consider their own communities as they reflect on their experience at the museum and observe how the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi has served as an example for movements all over the world.