Throwback Thursday: Seafood Museum preserved South Mississippi culture; set to do so again

Seafood Museum preserved the culture of the Coast; will do so again

meperez@sunherald.comJune 25, 2014 

BILOXI -- This week's Throwback Thursday is about to make a comeback as the finishing touches are put on the new Biloxi Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum.

Opening day will be Aug. 2, just four weeks before the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's attack that destroyed the original museum at the site at Point Cadet.

The museum opened in 1986 to preserve the maritime history and heritage of Biloxi and the Mississippi Coast, but the idea had been conceived years earlier.

In 1982, then-Mayor Gerald Blessey called a meeting to take the museum from a dream to reality.

"The sea has shaped Biloxi's history and character from the beginning," he said then. "Seafood workers came and still come from many nations: Poland, Yugoslavia, France, Cajun Louisiana, Africa and, recently, Vietnam."

That blending of cultures was demonstrated on opening day in 1986, when Slovenian and Vietnamese dancers, a jazz band, Keesler Chorale and Mercy Cross High School band provided entertainment. That same multi-cultural flavor was captured each year at the museum's International Festival.

In its first year, 20,000 people visited the museum, only 5 percent of whom were residents. They came to see artifacts of the fishing and boat building industries; Lewis Hines' photographs documenting child labor in the seafood factories in 1911; and a timeline that depicted the coastline of South Mississippi over millions of years, which were among the most memorable exhibits. Activities were what first drew locals to the museum. Sea 'n' Sail Camps and wooden boat shows have continued even after Hurricane Katrina, and the Biloxi Schooners sail from the Schooner Pier.

Robin Krohn-David has served as the museum's director since 1988. She said its new Museum Heritage Hall of Fame will honor those who built the industry and the culture of South Mississippi, and new inductees will be added each year.

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