PRESERVING HISTORY: $8M grants will fund new museum, preservation school in Natchez

Published 7:30 am Saturday, April 16, 2022

NATCHEZ — The Mississippi legislature has provided $8 million to fund two projects in Natchez — one at Historic Jefferson College and the other at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians.

Katie Blount, director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, said how much will go to each of the two projects has yet to be determined.

At Historic Jefferson College, part of the funds will go to develop a Historic Preservation Field School, working in cooperation with Mississippi State University and Tulane University in New Orleans.

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“The Field School will offer hands on training on things like brick repointing, stucco repair and window restoration,” Blount said. “These are the kinds of work needed in places like Natchez, New Orleans and other cities around the country. There is a lack of skilled workers in this area and the Field School will offer great opportunities to prepare people for careers.”

The other part of the Historic Jefferson College project is creating a museum or history center that serves as a gateway to Natchez, she said.

“We want to share the broad history of Natchez from the native American region to the conflict among colonial powers, westward expansion, statehood, to the rise and fall of the cotton kingdom built on slavery, to the civil war and reconstruction,” Blount said. “The point is, Natchez has history as rich as any city in the country. It is told so well through the area, but no place gives the broad overview and that’s what we want to do at Jefferson College.

“The story we will tell at Jefferson College will connect closely with the Forks of the Road National Park Service site just a few miles away,” she said. “Of course, we will also tell the history of the school itself.”

The restoration of the historic buildings at Jefferson College is already under way.

“They are working on the roof and we have done some early planning for the site, developed a master plan that we talked about and engaged the public’s voice in during public meetings in Natchez.”

At the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, plans are to build a new interpretive center and a new pavilion and all new interpretation outside.

“Grand Village is a wonderful site and a historic landmark and it’s time to invest in it,” Blount said. “We are beginning the process of selecting an architect and exhibit firm and will be holding meetings with the public about that project, too. That project — at Grand Village — will move faster.

“We so appreciate the support of the Mississippi Legislature, the city and county and all of our other partners and the Natchez community, who is helping us make these plans,” she said.