Pocket
History

Peer into the window of Hattiesburg’s Pocket Museum! Catch a short film at the Hattiesburg Pocket Theater! Take a piece of art, or leave a piece of art at the Hattiesburg Art Gallery! Each attraction in this very special alley in Downtown Hattiesburg is ever-changing, sometimes cute, sometimes curious, but always interesting! Our hope is that you visit often and by discovering Mississippi’s Tiniest Museum, Tiniest Art Gallery and most unique Movie Theater, you are moved to explore the side streets, back alleys, dirt roads, crooks and creeks of our city and state with wild abandon and unlimited curiosity….because you never know what’s around the next corner!

HATTIESBURG POCKET MUSEUM HISTORY

In March of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the closure of the Historic Saenger Theater in downtown Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA. As the lockdown continued into the summer, the staff of the theater and its managing agency, the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, were determined to create a way for people to escape the isolation of health-related restrictions and enjoy “surprise and delight” just as they might at a theater performance. With a scant US $800 at their disposal, they got to work converting a boarded-up window in a rear storeroom of the theater into a small museum…a pocket museum.

The boarded-up alley window, which had been hidden for almost 4 decades, was replaced with security glass and a “Hattiesburg Pocket Museum” sign was made. Michael Gillespie, a chef with the Convention Commission, applied his amateur cabinet-making skills to create a display cabinet to fit the window. Lighting was added, along with a single outside speaker, and the museum was born.

In early November 2020, the Hattiesburg Pocket Museum employed the services of Milo to serve as Museum Curator. Milo and his son Winslow made the trip together from the Ukraine, and in December Milo’s wife Rose and daughter Poppy made the trip to Hattiesburg to join them.  Visitors to Hattiesburg Pocket Museum will see Milo or a member of his family in every exhibition as they like to be intricately involved with the ever-changing displays.    

The museum has become a tourism catalyst far beyond the wildest expectations of its creators. Since opening the second week of August, 2020, more than 300,000 visitors have “found” it. The mystery of its location has caused it to be shared extensively on social media which has fueled visitation and online commentary, drawing the attention of Forbes, The Washington Post, Lonely Planet Guides, Time Out magazines, Tasteful Rude, and several other travel, art, and news publications. 

In May 2021 Hollywood actor, and Hattiesburg resident, Gary Grubbs cut the film strip for the opening of the Hattiesburg Pocket Theater.  The theater’s mini-films change with each Pocket Museum exhibit on the first day of each month.  

In September of that same year the Pocket Art Gallery (the tiniest art gallery in Mississippi) opened in the alley.  The gallery, which is located in a renovated newspaper stand, boasts small gallery patrons and easels that give full attention to each and every piece of art that is placed in the gallery by the public. The rules of the gallery are simple:  Add a piece or take a piece and scan the QR code to let the museum know what you are leaving or a photo of what you are taking home so the artist can see where it goes!  Art can be abstract pieces, charcoal, water color, textile art, wire art, collages, clay or anything artists can dream of! 

In addition to the museum, numerous outdoor art installations are featured in the alley, including a Kelsey Montague painting on the city parking garage across from the museum window, two Damian Guerrero street-art installations, “Let it Go” and “Fox in the Wind” adjacent to the museum, are five pieces, “Mice in Peril”, “Why Can’t We Be Friends” and “Abbey Road – in 3D”, “Hub City Chasm – in 3D” and “Nothing but Bubble” by local artist, Lissa Ortego.  Gabby Smith added two art pieces to the alley, “Something’s Fishy” and “Bugs in the Burg”.  The Let’s Connect SkyBridge art installation, brought to life by artist River Prince, was unveiled in April 2022.  The bridge connects the parking garage across the alley has been transformed into an amazing, colorful LEGO structure featuring LEGO climbers, climbing spotters and LEGO observers.  The Let’s Connect SkyBridge is brought to the alley by Rick, Vicki, Skye and Archer Taylor.  2023 brought additional works of art including “Be BRAVE Little One” by Lissa Ortego and mother-daughter artists Colbey and Aubri Sparkman brought color, movement and whimsy to two utility boxes with their works “Peace, Love and the Hub” by Colbey and “Detective McDroppings on the Case” by Aubri.   A new piece of art, “Say Cheese” features a cheese and fruit board created by artist Caren Loy will surely please even the most discerning of palates.  Along with these works of art, ever-changing miniature model dioramas have been placed on a variety of utility boxes in the alley, creating a “find and seek” component to a visit to the alley.

The museum has energized downtown Hattiesburg, bringing visitors and spending during a time of seeming despair and difficulty. What started as a bit of fun to reuse, adapt, and revitalize a window in an alley has become a major economic catalyst for the tourism industry of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA.