Preservation school to be discussed at meeting

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 21, 2010

NATCHEZ — Few places have more to offer a budding historic preservationist than Natchez, and a few locals want to make the city a classroom.

The idea of establishing a Mississippi Preservation School in Natchez isn’t new, Historic Natchez Foundation Executive Director Mimi Miller said, but a renewed push to see something done sooner rather than later is.

That’s why the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the Mississippi Heritage Trust, the Natchez National Historical Park and HNF are hosting a meeting on the topic tonight.

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Cocktails will be served at 5:30 p.m. at HNF, but the program begins at 6 p.m.

Robert W. Ogle, the dean of career and technical education at Lamar Community College, Lamar, Colo., will lead the presentation.

Ogle developed a preservation program already in place at his school, which includes an associate degree and several certificates.

For Natchez, the options are many, Miller said.

“I’m not sure where it will go,” she said. “I think it could become a little economic development engine for us.”

Miller envisions offering classes at either Copiah-Lincoln Community College or Historic Jefferson College that would be ideal for workmen such as plaster and wood workers and brick masons, among others.

Credits would be transferable to other college programs, and the Natchez school could eventually be expanded into a full degree program.

Currently, master’s degree programs in historic preservation are common — Miller pointed out that at least three students with Natchez ties are currently enrolled around the country — but undergraduate programs are less popular.

A start-up Natchez school might attract 50 students from across the country, Miller said.

The Lamar Junior College program offers certificates in construction, decorative arts, masonry, metal and woodcraft as well as a generalist certificate.

Meetings and tours with Ogle will be ongoing all day today, but the 6 p.m. presentation is open to the public.

Elected officials, community organization representatives and Natchez, Inc. members, were invited to attend the meeting.