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Plans for Grand Village of Natchez Indians detailed

NATCHEZ — Visitors to the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians will soon be able to see with their own eyes how the Natchez Indians lived in the 18th century with the help of 21st-century technology.

Mississippi Department of Archives and History officials will offer a new virtual reality exhibit in March. Using cellphones, visitors will get a three-dimensional interactive view of the site’s Indian mounds and other landmarks.

The virtual reality tour is part of an effort to broaden the visitor experience at the state historical site, Grand Village Director Lance Harris told the Natchez-Adams Economic Development Council Monday.

Harris and MDAH Executive Director Katie Blount detailed plans for the Grand Village and other state sites at the weekly meeting of area economic leaders.

Harris and Blount will also share their plans with the Natchez Historical Society at its annual meeting at 6:30 p.m. today at the Carriage House at Stanton Hall.

Harris said the Grand Village would also be changing in the next couple of months all of its exterior signage. The signage will offer a more complete telling of the Natchez Indian story than what is currently on the site, Harris said.

Blount said telling a broader story about the Native American experience and other inhabitants of Southwest Mississippi is one of the current priorities of the department.

“Since we opened the two Mississippi Museums in December 2017, Natchez and this region are our focus,” Blount said. “We have welcomed 300,000 people to those sites since we opened, and I believe those visitors need to come to Natchez.”

Development of the Grand Village is one of the department’s highest priorities, Blount said.

In addition to the new exhibits coming this spring, Harris detailed other changes MDAH hopes to accomplish in the future.

MDAH is working to raise approximately $6 million to add a new museum exhibition space, auditorium and open-air pavilion, among other changes.

The new buildings will significantly expand the existing 4,000 square-foot building, which has become cramped and in need of a significant revamp, Harris said.

Harris said MDAH hopes to install a new “Three Sisters Garden” and build replica structures on the mounds to allow visitors to explore the site as it appeared in the 18th century.

The structures will be designed and built using historical written accounts, corroborated with archeological research.

“That type of information simply does not exist anywhere else in North America,” Harris said.

A revitalized Grand Village is part of MDAH’s plan for the area, Blount said. MDAH is currently working to stabilize the columns at Windsor Ruins and provide new interpretive exhibits at the site in Claiborne County.

MDAH is also working at Historic Jefferson College, embarking on an erosion control project and working on roof and gutter repairs, Harris said. Plans are to make Historic Jefferson College a gateway to the region, Blount said.

“All of this is part of a broader initiative to tell a broader story here in Natchez — the story of the Native American experience, of cultural conflict, slavery, Civil War, Reconstruction, the rich cultural architectural history of this area and the Civil Rights movement,” Blount said. “All of these stories are central to American history. People need to come to Mississippi to understand American history, and they need to come to Natchez to experience these stories.”