Digging into history: Archaeologist joins foundation staff as curator

Published 12:27 am Thursday, January 26, 2017

By Christian Coffman

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — The Historic Natchez Foundation has brought in extra help to piece together the puzzle of the city’s past.

The foundation hired Nicole Harris as a full-time curator — a first for the organization.

HNF Executive Director Mimi Miller said Harris is a welcome addition to the staff.   “We desperately needed another body … our collections are growing,” Miller said, in reference to the proliferating collections of old letters, antiques and other artifacts. “We needed somebody who could focus primarily on handling our collections.”

Originally from Lafayette, La., Harris has a master’s degree in anthropology and boasts 10 years experience in the field of archaeology and eight to 10 years in forensic anthropology.

“I’ve always been attracted to history and science; I like figuring things out,” Harris said. “History is like a puzzle without all of the pieces, and science can help us to fill in the blanks.”   

Harris said she learned of the new position as curator from her husband, Lance Harris, who is the director of the Grand Village of Natchez Indians. Lance Harris has worked with Miller and the foundation on many projects.

Harris said that she will have many duties as curator, such as numbering important archives, being in contact with and helping archaeologists, grant writing and working with the Foundation’s new cataloging software.

Miller said artifacts in the HNF archive are catalogued, but not in a museum database. The new software will help the Foundation classify artifacts for proper storage and organization using current museum standards, she said.

Mimi said Nicole’s expertise would be especially helpful in handling the new cataloguing software.

“Nicole was a good fit because she brings in an archeological perspective,” Miller said. “We’ve always been involved with archaeologists, and it’s good to have one on board.”

Trevor Brown, HNF deputy director, said he and the rest of the staff are “excited to have another professional person to lend a hand, especially with Nicole’s expertise.”

Nicole Harris said that she is making sure to ground herself.

“First I’m just getting my feet wet, to get my mind around the enormity of the job and what it stands for,” she said. “I’d like to write some grants to get (the Historic Natchez Foundation) in a good place, in order to store materials and show exhibits adequately. It’s an old, needy building.”

Harris is quick to note that others have already done massive amounts of work, but that much remains that she can do.

The foundation has already accomplished much in the first month of 2017, such as submitting a $10,000 civil rights grant application on behalf of FOR Natchez and introducing plans for the development of the former Natchez College campus. However, more always remains to do, she said.

“I’m willing to do whatever Mimi asks of me. I like being involved with the Foundation,” Nicole Harris said.