MDAH Press Conference to Announce Expansion of Preservation Work in Adams County
Natchez, Miss. — Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded a $2.5 million grant to the Foundation for Mississippi History to help the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) support and promote programs, activities, and projects focused on the understanding and interpretation of the role of religion in Mississippi history and culture. Lilly Endowment made the grant through its Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative, a nationwide effort to help museums and other cultural institutions improve the public understanding of religion.
Lilly Endowment support will enable MDAH to invest in capital improvements at two Adams County sites; Huddleston Memorial Chapel at Natchez College, which is owned by the General Missionary Baptist State Convention of Mississippi (GMBSC), and Historic Jefferson College (HJC), an MDAH site.
Natchez College is a unique Mississippi Landmark. After the Civil War, the college was established in the mansion house of a plantation called Elmo to provide education for ministers and Black citizens. The MDAH historic preservation team will oversee a grant of $750,000, as pass-through funding from Lilly, for the GMBSC’s renovation of the college’s chapel building. The GMBSC is working to transform the chapel and the other existing building, the women’s dormitory, into the Baptist Heritage and Arts Center.
“One of the General Missionary Baptist State Convention of Mississippi’s great accomplishments was the founding and operation of Natchez College in 1884 to provide schooling and social services for Black children beyond the limited scope provided by the State of Mississippi,” said Rev. Reginald Buckley, GMBSC president. “The GMBSC is grateful for the Lilly Endowment’s support for the restoration of this historic site. We look forward to working with our partners at MDAH to realize our vision for Natchez College.”
Historic Jefferson College opened in 1811 as the first institution of higher learning in Mississippi, and the site of Mississippi’s first Methodist congregation. MDAH will reinterpret the site, creating an interpretive center and a historic preservation field school. MDAH will commission an archaeological survey as a basis for the church footprint that will be recreated using ground level stones or bricks. MDAH will also develop interpretive signage for the Methodist church site. Lilly has provided $36,000 for the project at HJC. MDAH is also raising federal, state, local, and additional private money to support these projects.
“Our mission is to tell all Mississippi stories, and the influence of religion is among the most important” said Katie Blount, MDAH director. “The support of the Lilly Endowment is critical to our goals of reaching a broader audience at all of our sites and interpreting our state’s history at Natchez College and Historic Jefferson College.”
“Museums and cultural institutions are trusted organizations and play an important role in teaching the American public about the world around them,” said Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “These organizations will use the grants to help visitors understand and appreciate the significant impact religion has had and continues to have on society in the United States and around the globe. Our hope is that these efforts will promote greater knowledge about and respect for people of diverse religious traditions.”
MDAH is one of sixteen organizations from across the United States receiving grants through the latest round of the initiative. The group includes fine arts museums, historical societies and history museums, libraries, historic sites, museums dedicated to serving children and families and museums dedicated to particular geographic locations and cultures.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J. K. Lilly and his sons, Eli and J.K. Jr., through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with its founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion. Although the Endowment funds programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion, it maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.
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