City of Jackson seeks up to $ 5.5 million in bonds for planetarium and arts center

JACKSON, Mississippi (WLBT) – African manuscripts that have stood the test of time for centuries face a new threat: high temperatures caused by a faulty HVAC system at the Mississippi Center for the Arts.

The center on Pascagoula Street was virtually inoperative for more than a month after the CVC suddenly ceased to function.

While most employees can work from home, some nearly 700-year-old manuscripts now on display at the International Museum of Muslim Cultures are not so lucky.

And due to the extreme heat there, museum officials fear the artifacts will be damaged as a result.

However, help could be on the way in the form of a multi-million dollar loan being considered by Jackson City Council.

On Tuesday, the board approved a resolution to issue up to $ 5.5 million in general bonds from the Mississippi Development Bank to renovate the Russell C. Davis planetarium and repair the arts centre’s HVAC unit.

Okolo Rashid, the museum’s executive director, was one of many art leaders who attended Tuesday’s meeting to urge the council not only to fix the building’s air conditioning, but to make further improvements to the facility.

“What I was there to talk about and really impress the City Council and the City of Jackson is the importance of starting the Arts Center. Even though we have other organizations there and it affects them, it affects the museum more because we have to have a certain temperature to preserve our artifacts, ”she said.

Rashid is particularly concerned about certain African manuscripts on loan from the Mamma Haidara Memorial Library in Timbuktu. The documents are part of the museum’s Legacy of Timbuktu exhibition.

“These are manuscripts that date back to the 1400s that really establish the great scholarship, the great wealth and empire-building of West Africa,” she said. “No one has one, except the Library of Congress.”

Currently, the museum uses fans and other items to keep the artifacts as cool as possible.

The arts center is located on rue Pascagoula between the planetarium and the Thalia Mara room. The approximately 43-year-old building houses the Museum of Muslim Cultures, Mississippi Ballet, Mississippi Opera House, VSA Arts, and other groups.

Many offices are temporarily closed there due to the lack of air conditioning. “It’s very hot there,” said deputy director of human and cultural services David Lewis. “There’s no air conditioning and it’s a Mississippi summer. Tenants can access the building to go to their offices. But the HVAC and A / C are down at the moment.

Lewis didn’t know when the air conditioner would be fixed. He said it depends on how quickly a new HVAC unit can be purchased. “There is a significant backlog on HVAC systems,” he said. “We have contacted several companies and are awaiting their return. The council’s action (Tuesday) will help us move forward more quickly.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved a resolution to borrow the loan. Voting is basically a formality and is required before the board issues the actual order to withdraw the money.

The board will do this once an official dollar amount is presented by the administration. Lewis hopes to present that figure to the council in September. He didn’t know how long it would take for the loan application to be processed and approved.

The loan funds will also be used to begin work on a $ 12 million project designed to rehabilitate the Davis Planetarium.

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba announced the plans last year. The work includes redesigning the third-floor exhibition space, installing new seating and lighting, and redesigning the washrooms, Lewis said.

New exhibits are also planned to replace those that were last updated during the Space Shuttle era.

Meanwhile, the second floor will be gutted and redesigned for use as an adaptive learning space, while a new atrium will be built on the first floor to better connect the planetarium to the Mississippi Arts Center.

Including the $ 5.5 million in loans, the city got about half of the $ 14 million it hoped to raise for the work.

Copyright 2021 WLBT. All rights reserved.

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