State receives grant to help start Mississippi field school to teach historic woodworking, masonry, preservation techniques

Published 2:01 pm Friday, February 3, 2023

Mississippi Department of Archives and History has received $500,000 in federal funds from the National Park Service as a result of Congressionally Directed Spending in the most recent federal appropriations process.

With these funds from the Save America’s Treasures grant program, MDAH will be able to establish a Historic Preservation Field School at Historic Jefferson College, located just outside of Natchez in the Washington community.

The field school is part of a larger MDAH initiative to establish the Natchez Center for American History at Jefferson College.

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In addition to the field school, its components will include community gathering spaces, a visitor’s center, and an interpretive center that will share the powerful stories of this region, with a focus on the rise and fall of a cotton kingdom that was built on slavery.

“The Save America’s Treasure grant will support the restoration of historic Raymond Hall to house students who are earning college degrees while learning preservation trades that are in great demand in the marketplace, especially in this region,” said Katie Blount, director of MDAH. “We are grateful to Mississippi’s Congressional delegation for their strong support for this initiative.”

MDAH is partnering with the National Park Service, Historic Natchez Foundation, Mississippi State University, Tulane University, and other area colleges to establish the field school.

This consortium is developing training that will supplement traditional classroom instruction, with week-long workshops to meet the requirements of the universities for three credit hours. The field laboratory will include courses in woodworking, masonry, historic finishing and more.

“This collaboration is vital as there is currently a lack of knowledge of historic building systems and practical experience among many of the students and professionals in the preservation and construction fields,” said Barry White, director of MDAH Historic Preservation Division.

Established in 1802, Jefferson College was Mississippi’s first institution of higher learning and the birthplace of statehood, where delegates gathered in 1817 to write the state’s first constitution. Jefferson College operated for many years as a preparatory school and later as Jefferson Military College. It served briefly as a Freedmen’s Bureau after the Civil War. The campus is an 80-acre site with eight buildings with construction dates ranging from 1818 to 1937.

The Save America’s Treasures grant program was established in 1998 to celebrate America’s premier cultural resources in the new millennium.

After more than 20 years, this grant program has awarded more than 1,300 grants totaling more than $300 million to projects across the United States.

This program is administered by the National Park Service in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

By preserving Mississippi’s diverse historic resources and sharing them with people around the world, MDAH inspires discovery of stories that connect our lives and shape our future. For more information email For more information, call 601-576-6850, or email