JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum will celebrate their 5th anniversary in December. One of the key artifacts in the First Peoples Gallery received a facelift ahead of the anniversary.

The 500-year-old dugout canoe has been redisplayed in a bigger, and more importantly, brighter setting.

“Essentially, we went from a much smaller, more confined exhibit case that in many ways made it hard to see the canoe, and we created this new steel and glass enclosure here with the high walls, the large glass panels and really made some significant improvements in the lighting to amplify and make this canoe visible and really give sort of a great wow factor and impact here for our visitors,” explained Shane Keil, deputy director of the museums with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH).

There are older Native American creations in the state. The mounds come to mind. They are hundreds to thousands of years old. Emerald Mound, off the Natchez Trace north of Natchez, is the second largest ceremonial mound in the nation.

We also have pottery. There is some at the Two Museums, but the best collection of Native American pottery in the state is probably at the Museum of the Delta in Greenwood.

“So, this would have been entirely chipped and charred and then chipped by hand using tools. And what’s really remarkable about this canoe is not only that it has survived and is obviously in this great a shape 500 years later, but really the thin walls of the wood of the canoe, in many places only about two inches or less thick. So, it really shows you just the craftsmanship and the abilities that the native peoples had at the time to use those tools and create a structure like this,” said Keil.

The canoe is now the centerpiece it deserves to be. The 5th anniversary celebration weekend of the Two Mississippi Museums is coming up on December 9 and 10.