written by Andi Agnew | photography by Frank Farmer
If you have traveled downtown in recent months, you have no doubt seen the massive structures taking form across from the fairgrounds. This site will become the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum – a nearly $100 million project slated to open in the fall of 2017. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History is currently in the process of procuring and organizing items to add to the collection. Fondren resident Nan Prince is at the heart of this process.
A native of Aberdeen, near Oxford, Prince attended Ole Miss where she obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history.
“I had always majored in history; I just wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with it. My sophomore year of college I started working at the University Museums in Oxford. I worked there all through college and grad school, and had some internships and other things to help me get acquainted with museums,” says Prince.
These experiences solidified her career path, and she moved to Jackson in 2003 to work as registrar for the Old Capitol Museum. A couple of years into her time there, disaster struck, changing the course of the future for the museum.
“In 2005, Hurricane Katrina came through and shut down the Old Capitol. It kind of refocused everything we did,” says Prince. The Old Capitol Museum eventually reopened, but no longer served as the State History museum, so Prince went to work for the museum division as a whole.
“My role for several years now has been working pretty closely with the exhibit designers – making sure that everything that needs to go into the exhibit, artifact-wise, is in there, and that the artifacts are properly catalogued, measured and photographed, and making sure the artifact lists are up to date according to which case they’re going into when the cases and exhibits get built… making sure we have everything absolutely set for where it’s going to go.”
While some might say that museum work could be boring, Prince disagrees. “My favorite part of the job is working with the collections and seeing the neat historical things that you run into on a daily basis. We have about 25,000 artifacts spanning close to 500 years of history, so there’s a lot of stuff that, even in the 12 years I’ve been here, I haven’t seen yet. I’ll come across something really neat, and know the exact place it could go in the new museum,” Prince says.
Prince has lived in Fondren since she first moved to Jackson in 2003. Seeing the area change and grow over the last decade or so has been fascinating, she says. “I’d say in the past five years the changes have been amazing with all the restaurants, bars and shops popping up, people wanting to move here. It’s really been exciting to see how Fondren is growing.”
When it comes to pinpointing her favorite thing about living in Fondren, its easy to say it is the people. “It’s such an interesting mix of people… there are people who just moved in next door and are going to school here, and then there are people down the street who raised their grandchildren here and have lived here all their lives. It’s a nice mix of people,” she says.
Prince never tires of seeing the progress with the new museums. “We’re very excited about it, everything is on target… it’s just shooting up. It’s exciting to see those changes every day.”