Islamic museum only one in nation
Nation’s only Islamic museum housed in Jackson’s art center Page 2A THE NORTHSIDE SUN, JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI Thursday, August 23, 2007 By ELIZABETH ORTEGA Sun Staff Writer WHILE ITMIGHTSEEM unusual that the only museum in the United States devoted to Islamic history history and culture would be found in Jackson, the International Museum of Muslim Cultures has flourished — growing from a lone exhibit running running along with a similarly themed international exhibit at the Mississippi Arts Pavilion in 2001, to the museum that visitors will find today. That exhibit, ‘The Majesty of Spain,’was the genesis of the museum, museum, said Okolo Rashid, executive director of the museum. What some called a “miracle project,” project,” because of the short amount of time organizers had to pull everything everything together, the museum came out of efforts to explain the role of Muslims in the history and culture of Spain - something that the Majesty exhibit omitted. “They were actually going to start at 1750 and come forward, but that meant they left all of this history out. So, we thought that was such a great oversight because the history of Spain - the richness and the wealth - really came from that early Islamic history,” Rashid said. The inaugural exhibit, “Islamic Moorish Spain: Its Legacy to Europe and the West,” opened one month after the Majesty exhibit, and ran for six months at the arts pavilion. It received such an overwhelmingly positive response from the community, community, and people telling the exhibit creators that they shouldn’t close it, that it was decided to keep the exhibit exhibit open as a museum in its own right, Rashid said. But after the September 11 terrorist attacks, museum officials thought they would have to close the museum. museum. “We felt like, oh, nobody’s going to come now. And of course two or three days after that we got a brick in the window,” Rashid said. “But, interestingly enough we started to get a new interest. Christian groups came down. Teachers brought their school students and they said that they felt that it would be better for them to learn in this educational environment rather than the media. It really gave us a new lease on life, so to speak.” THE MUSEUM BOASTS A large number of sponsors which provide provide funding to keep the museum up and running. The Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Mississippi Arts Commission are two very important donors, Rashid said. But numerous other public and private entities contribute funds, from the state of Mississippi, Hinds County and city of Jackson, to educational educational institutions such as Jackson State University and Tougaloo College, as well as many more. The museum moved into its new location in the Mississippi Arts Center at 201 E. Pascagoula St. in November of 2006. The new location places the museum museum in the middle of Jackson’s arts and cultural community, with the Mississippi Museum of Art, Thalia Mara Hall, Russell Davis Planetarium, and the Telecom Center all nearby, and puts it within walking distance of the future Old Capitol Green, Convention Center and Farish Street developments. The museum’s newlocation opened with a new exhibit, “The Legacy of Timbuktu: Wonders of the Written Word.” The exhibit will cover a period of 1,400 years of the fabled city known for its great wealth of not only material material goods, but of culture and scholarship scholarship as well. On display will be rare manuscripts, manuscripts, artifacts as well as reproductions, reproductions, electronic and graphic displays and the opportunity for visitors to have hands-on experiences at the exhibit. “I think the attraction of this exhibit exhibit is that it re-establishes Africa’s literacy. literacy. It is established by way of these ancient African manuscripts that were recently rediscovered in west Africa. We have on display 45 of these original ancient documents out of Timbuktu out of the estimated one million that have been rediscovered rediscovered in Mali alone.” OTHER EXHIBITS ATTHE museum tell the story of the Saharan caravan trade and the transatlantic slave trade. Some of the artifacts that the museum museum holds include a 20 foot by 30 foot leather camelskin tent, various tools used by craftsmen, and a large replica replica of the Jenne or Djenne mosque, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The museum also explores the possible possible Muslim origins of Mississippi Blues. The International Museum of Muslim Cultures is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call the museum at 601-960-0440, or visit them online at www.muslimmuse- um.org. Business Notes Rachel K. Gaines has joined the CPAfirm of Eubank and Betts PLLC as a staff accountant. Gaines is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi where she received a bachelor’s degree cum laude in accounting in May 2007. She will specialize in accounting and assurance services.