updated 6/7/2007 3:24:43 PM ET 2007-06-07T19:24:43

Mobile's maritime heritage will be on display at a planned $30 million museum set to open in 2009 on the waterfront next to the cruise ship terminal.

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At a big-tent ceremony Thursday launching a campaign to raise the millions needed to build the National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico, Mobile Mayor Sam Jones said the museum will be a centerpiece for the maritime community that also will bring people to the waterfront.

The museum will be shaped like a ship headed out to Mobile Bay. Exhibits will be housed inside the stern of a full-sized container ship, displayed as if dockside.

Tony Zodrow, who was hired in 2005 as the museum's executive director after serving as director of Birmingham's McWane Center, expects the museum will become a favorite stop for visitors from the Gulf states. He cited a marketing study that projects first-year attendance at more than 160,000.

Zodrow said the museum's hands-on exhibits will cover early Gulf settlements, marine archaeology, deep sea exploration and modern shipbuilding. There will also be exhibits on the shipping industry and hurricanes, among other interests.

Traveling exhibitions and educational programs also will be featured.

Museum board chairman E. B. Peebles III said the museum on Mobile River will preserve the city's maritime legacy for future generations and will be a "catalyst for continued development of our waterfront."

More than $6 million has been raised toward the capital campaign's $10 million goal announced Thursday. The project is described as a public-private partnership between the city and the museum.

Early financial backers include major corporations and the city's well-known shipping families.

"Now everyone has an opportunity to participate," said Jones, acknowledging former Mayor Mike Dow's vision for the museum before he left office.

With more than $10 million in support from federal sources, museum officials say the city is working to secure the remaining funding for the museum building. It's expected to cost $22 million, with other funds going toward exhibits and infrastructure.

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