New visitor’s center exhibits going up

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 25, 2009

NATCHEZ — It has taken Natchez and its residents hundreds of years to develop the city’s rich history, but by Friday a small crew of workers should be done outlining that history on the walls of the Natchez Visitor’s Center.

Tuesday the crew began installing enormous panels on the walls of the visitor’s center that depict Natchez and its residents from well past the Natchez Indians and their first encounters with the Jesuits to present day.

The panels take viewers on a journey that touches on Native Americans, colonization, slavery, the civil war, the civil rights movement even Pilgrimage and the balloon race.

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Natchez National Historical Park Superintendent Kathleen Jenkins said the new exhibit is meant to give both locals and tourists a comprehensive overview of the people and events that have shaped the city’s history.

“We’re thrilled to see it finally going up,” Jenkins said of the project that’s been two years in the making. “We’ve actually had to pull visitors away from it to keep the work going. People are just drawn to it.”

Jenkins said not only is the new exhibit able to help visitors better understand the city’s people and history, but also it acts as a directory to the city’s multitude of historical sites.

“You can come in here and get a great idea of what you want to go out and see while you’re in Natchez,” Jenkins said.

Historic Natchez Foundation Director Mimi Miller, who consulted on the information on the panels, said she hopes the new display will also encourage locals to go out and learn more about their city.

“It makes the visitor’s center a more interpretive center,” Miller said. “Anyone can go in there and see this is an important place with a great history. It covers a wide spectrum of the city and the people.”

And Edquist Davis Exhibits associate Julie Nathon, who helped to design the panels, said the depth of Natchez’s history was so great that it was difficult to capture it all.

“(Natchez) is obviously a city with a very rich history,” Nathon said. “And to get all of on the wall wasn’t easy.”

But to make sure that an accurate portrait of the city was represented Nathon and others spent time meeting with locals like Miller to make sure as much of the city’s story could be told.

And Nathon said in cataloging that story, she was surprised by how much so many people knew about their city.

“We consulted some books for fact-checking, but most of the people we spoke with were extremely knowledgeable about their city,” she said. “They’re really involved and passionate about keeping this city’s history alive.”

The display, which also serves as headquarters for the Natchez National Historical Park, should be completed by Friday.