Taking sides

Taking sides

Though it has inevitably been a topic of conversation here and there, we haven’t really been 100% immersed in the outcome of last week’s referendum as much here as we would be at home.  People here are interested, though, and seem amazed (as we are) that the Brexit choice was the outcome.  All we can say is “we did our best”.  I say this because we are in Civil War country now.  A war which happened 150 years ago but which still divides the people here.  Who knows how many years divisions appearing in our own country will take to heal?


Out we went this morning, into a humid 94F already, so we steamed up immediately.


Acclimatised, we arrived at the Vicksburg Old Courthouse, site of the town museum.


The approach was full of Civil War-related items because here in Vicksburg, it’s the Civil War which looms largest.


But when we saw two small signposts, we did a double take.


Oh, come on!  Surely there were not separate entrances for men and women?  Well, no, those were the signs to the public loos:  We all went straight through that front door!


Inside we found a pretty old fashioned museum, unchanged from the days when glass cabinets were containers for all manner of bits and pieces and the concept of the “visitor experience”  had not really been considered.


Anything and everything had been placed in a cabinet, together with an information card giving details of the donor as well.  Exhibits had been sorted into broad categories, so this was the Civil War room, for example.


Oh yes, there were curiosities a plenty, such as the Minie Ball Pregnancy


But there were so many things in there that at times it was hard to see the wood for the trees.


That, coupled with all the information cards, meant that some cases were simply overwhelming.


Upstairs told a similar tale.  Lots of interesting bits and pieces but in such quantity that it was difficult to know where to look.


This meant that in some cases, the items were simply not adequately conserved.


The costume room in particular was simply crammed full of treasure.


I had no problem identifying who I’d take home with me though, given the chance.  This bear had been given to a small boy by Teddy Roosevelt and probably had the most breathing space of anything in the museum, actually!


Just when I was thinking that they’ve probably got at least one of everything here, sure enough, there was another of those top hat baths we saw at Gaineswood the other day.

As we left the museum, we chatted about our experience.  Sure, the two gentlemen ?volunteers? had been charming and very helpful but perhaps they needed some support in cleaning, sorting and reducing the number of things on display?  But if the Old Courthouse had fallen short of what we’d expect from a 21st century museum experience, then our next destination was to plumb further depths.


Our next stop was the Old Depot, formerly the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad Depot which was now advertised as another museum of Vicksburg.


As soon as we opened the door, we were greeted by “Where y’all from?” and were given a breakdown of what was on show here.  Having paid our $5 each admission, we were recommended to see the visual presentation about the Civil War which would inform our visit and explain the battlefield diorama too.  A young man was summoned to show us to the location and to switch the thing on – we sat on folding chairs in and around the diorama and watched what turned out to be a slide show on the TV high on the wall.  It lasted 30 minutes, during which time Mary tried not to fall asleep, I compiled a shopping list and my hero – of course – watched every bit.


Having watched the whole show, we looked around the diorama and the assortment of model boats, took a brief look at a couple of model railways before making a swift exit.  This had been a really amateurish affair and once again a little curation wouldn’t go amiss. 


By this time, it was almost lunchtime and Vicksburg had sprung to life.  The leafy Main street was bustling with traffic and was much as we’d expected Natchez to be yesterday.


We spotted The Mad Baker and popped inside for a cool drink and a bite to eat after which we went on to visit the main visitor attraction of Vicksburg; the battlefield itself and another National Park triumph.

Meet me in the next post and I’ll tell you about it.

The Battlefield

The Battlefield

Along the Natchez Parkway

Along the Natchez Parkway