Museum money stalled

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

NATCHEZ &045; Funds for renovation of the old Institute Building weren’t included in any bond bill passed Tuesday by the state House of Representatives.

But state Sen. Bob Dearing, D-Natchez, said Wednesday he will work with other lawmakers to get the request included in a revenue bill in the next two to three weeks.

Dearing sponsored Senate Bill 3020, which asked for up to $1 million in bond proceeds for renovations to the 100-year-old building, which houses the Historic Natchez Foundation.

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Foundation officials have said that due to the lack of a general museum of Natchez history, former and current residents are donating artifacts of the town’s past to other institutions, some outside the area.

In addition to establishing a museum in the building, funds would also be used to build a climate-controlled document storage facility there.

Bond bills that did pass the House included funding requests for an arts center in Meridian, a welcome center at the Gulf Coast’s Stennis Space Center and the B.B. King Museum.

&uot;All those projects had matching money&uot; to complement the state funding, Dearing said.

But Mimi Miller, the foundation’s director of preservation and education, said she’s confident the it could have gotten a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for the work. The state funding would then have been used along with that grant.

&uot;We could show (lawmakers) documents that prove we’re in stable financial shape&uot; and would be able to raise match funding, Miller said.

Miller has said that to establish a museum in the building, the facility would need to an estimated $1 million worth of renovations to, among other things, protect artifacts from the elements.

Those upgrades, which Miller said would probably take two or three years after funding is received to complete, would include installing climate control equipment, movable document storage shelves and fire suppression equipment.

The basement would be used for storage, the first floor &045; now offices, empty classrooms and conference space &045; for a museum and the upper floor for offices.