Natchez Visitor Center celebrates 10 years

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 9, 2009

NATCHEZ — Hundreds of history enthusiasts from all across the United States were present Thursday evening as the Natchez Visitor Center celebrated its 10-year anniversary by presenting the grand opening of its Natchez exhibits.

“We’ve been working on the exhibit for about two years,” Natchez National Historical Park Superintendent Kathleen Jenkins said.

The center’s newest feature contains artifacts and a historical timeline of Natchez’s settlement along with a riverboat exhibit outlining how river crews navigated the Mississippi River.

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Jenkins said the federal government commissioned the new exhibit.

She said the funding provided to the center has been used to showcase materials that offer the viewer an understanding of where Natchez has been and where it is now.

“We’re showing all the people of Natchez, from the Natchez Indians to the present day,” Jenkins said. ”It’s a pretty ambitious goal, but Congress gave us a pretty ambitious mission.”

Jenkins said she hopes the newest addition to the center will allow tourists to become more informed not only about the history of city, but also about what they should go and see during their stay.

Attendee Betty Lou Hicks said she sees the new addition to the center as a built-in-tour guide for people touring the area by themselves.

“(The facility) will give them the framework to understand what it is they are seeing in Natchez,” Hicks said.

Hicks, who works as a guide with Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, said the most common question she gets from tourists about the city is, “Why has Natchez been preserved the way it has been?”

Hicks said her standard answer to enlighten tourists as to why the government is interested in Natchez is based on the city’s ability to endure.

“We’re the oldest permanent settlement on the Mississippi River,” Hicks said.

The grand opening was scheduled in part to help kick off the first day of the eighth-annual Historic Natchez Conference, and according to Jenkins, the feedback she’d received from historical scholars in attendance confirmed the success of the exhibit.

“The people here are all very excited,” Jenkins said. “It’s got something for everybody.”