Historic Natchez Foundation receives $150K grant

Published 12:06 am Thursday, December 11, 2014

Historic Natchez Foundation deputy director Trevor Brown walks through the foundations archives in the basement Wednesday. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Historic Natchez Foundation deputy director Trevor Brown walks through the foundations archives in the basement Wednesday. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — The Historic Natchez Foundation will receive a $150,000 grant toward the installation of a fire suppression system that will allow the foundation to expand into formal museum operations.
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History announced the funding to HNF’s offices at the Natchez Institute as part of a $2 million package to 17 projects statewide in the Community Heritage Preservation Grant program.

The grant to HNF is the second of its kind, following $134,000 last year to which this year’s funds will be added.

HNF Executive Director Mimi Miller said the foundation will more than match the grant funds, which will be used to install a fire suppression system and finish the development of the basement at the Institute into an archival facility.

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“We are very excited about (the grant) because we have the bulk of the historic Adams County courthouse records in this building,” Miller said. “The things that would be lost if there was a fire — as has happened in other counties — are of significant historic value.”

When completed, the archival area will house records for the HNF, the Natchez Historical Society, the courthouse, the Daughters of the American Revolution and Natchez National Park, Miller said.

The foundation also houses the records for the Natchez City Cemetery in its fire rated vault.

Natchez National Park Superintendent Kathleen Jenkins said the installation of the fire suppression system, allowing the foundation to house the park service’s museum pieces, is a great opportunity to help buttress the partnership between the organizations.

“We have a temporary building that has been at Melrose for 20 years, which — first — is nearing the end of its useful life — and second — is in the historic landscape where it should not be,” Jenkins said. “The fact that they already have the huge stable school building is a huge opportunity for us to have all our museum collections in one place, where we can access them and provide that access for researchers.

“If an object is not on display, that does not mean you can stick it in a warehouse. It still has to be professionally cared for.”

The National Park Service has mandated NPS holdings in at-risk areas such as the Gulf Coast have a plan for the safe storage of historic items. Natchez is one of the key places where those items are housed as needed, Jenkins said, and the Institute will serve to house them moving forward.

“There is a lot of attention on Natchez for being able to move forward with these plans,” she said.

Work on the fire suppression system will take place over the course of 2015, Miller said.

HNF has put nearly $900,000 into the Institute since purchasing it in 1992, Miller said, and after the archival phase of the project is completed some of the first floor of the building will be developed into museum space.

“Natchez has the (Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American Culture) museum, but it doesn’t have a general history museum,” Miller said. “That will be the focus of our fundraising and grant seeking after that point, but you don’t want to go to other people and ask them for their objects and have them in a non-climate controlled, non-fire suppressed area.”