Design ideas reviewed for Forks project

Published 11:15 pm Tuesday, April 7, 2009

NATCHEZ — A Forks of the Road think tank has decided that in developing an on-site museum, things have to be kept simple.

Tuesday night was the second installment of several workshops to discuss how to spend $20,000 in grant money from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Led by Grover Mouton, director of the Tulane Regional Urban Design Center School of Architecture, the group shared several conceptual designs.

Email newsletter signup

But the small group of interested citizens decided they want a small, long, narrow building that can house any artifacts and tell the story.

On the perimeter of the triangle of city-owned land at the Forks of the Road site, the group decided that there should be some type of monument.

Meeting participants proposed thin, black sheets of metal cut out in silhouettes. The scene depicted would be of a family being separated and sold into slavery.

Mouton said a scene like that with the silhouettes is the epitome of how interpretation should work.

“You do something that allows a person to come to a conclusion on their own,” he said.

The most important thing, Mouton said, is that the city and TRUDC move quickly on erecting a building .

“We’ve been working on this for two years, and it’s going nowhere,” he said. “I’m at the point where let’s do something with what we have.”

The difficult situation that the city is in is that the National Park Service is currently conducting a boundary study of the area as to whether the agency should purchase the site or not.

If NPS does purchase the site, any work the city might do to develop the site could be moot.

That’s why Mouton was suggesting doing something not elaborate, not overly expensive and that can be taken down if need be.

At the same time, this semi-temporary structure could be enhanced upon if NPS does not take over the site and, if in the future, adjacent property can be bought by the city.

But something has to go up now, he said.

That way, an actual development can be sold to the private sector, funds can be raised and more can be done.

The next step TRUDC officials will take is to expand the conceptual design of a small building into more of an actual design.

Natchez National Historic Park Superintendent Kathleen Jenkins said she thinks the idea needs to be presented to a broader audience.

“It’s got the energy, and it’s got the vision,” she said. “But I think we should broadly inform the public.”

She said the idea also needs to be presented to the mayor and board of aldermen, which Mouton said he is planning on doing.