State historians use technology to plan future of historic college

Published 1:49 pm Sunday, October 6, 2019

Although the gates are closed, work continues on the grounds of Historic Jefferson College.

Since closing the property to daily visitors in July, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History has started to prepare for the future redevelopment of the state landmark.

The property is currently accessible to visitors by appointment only and at special events, such as the upcoming Black and Blue Civil War Living History program on Oct. 26.

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“We are working towards doing restoration and renovation projects at the site,” MDAH Director of Historic Preservation Marlin King said.

Earlier this week, laser scans and drone photographs were taken of the entire property to have a record of the existing structures and their conditions on the site, King said.

Texas A&M professor of architecture Brent Fortenberry spent three-days last week using a 3-D scanner to take highly detailed scans of the buildings.

King said the three-dimensional images could get within 1/8-inch accuracy from 300 feet.

“From the length of a football field,” King said.

A person looking at the scans will be able to identify individual mortar joints and determine which joints need to be repointed and replaced, King said.

The scans and photographs, King said, will be used in two specific ways by MDAH.

“Our museum division will use them for programming what they want for future exhibit space,” King said. “They will be able to use them for planning purposes from the museum aspect.”

King said the data will also be used to decide which repair work will be necessary at the site.

“I will not always have to travel to Natchez to decide what work will need to be done,” King said. “It is a great way of introducing cutting-edge technology to historic preservation.”

King said he anticipates that renovation and restoration work should begin soon.

“We will be trying to take care of as much exterior work as possible,” King said. “We will ramp up the museum planning piece within the next year.”