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MDAH board lauds local efforts to preserve history

October 21, 2012

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s board of trustees honored multiple city, county and campus organizations for their efforts to preserve local historic landmarks during the board’s visit to Mississippi State University last week for its quarterly meeting.

MDAH representatives awarded certificates to honorees during a reception at MSU President Mark Keenum’s home Thursday evening. Honorees included MSU itself, the city of Starkville, the Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Starkville Central Neighborhood Foundation, the Starkville Main Street Association and the Oktibbeha County Historical and Genealogical Society.

The board’s resolution to honor MSU cites the unique collections of the Mitchell Memorial Library, the work of MSU’s history, architecture, political science and archaeology departments and the many historic buildings that have been restored on campus. Keenum said he invited the MDAH board to hold its meeting on the MSU campus to strengthen a relationship between MSU and MDAH that has existed since MDAH was founded.

Stephen D. Lee was not only the first president of MSU, he said, but also a founder and first president of MDAH’s board.

“Preserving our past is very important for us to understand where we came from so we can know where we’re going into the future,” Keenum said. “We have a lot of historic buildings all across this campus and across the state, so we want to have a strong relationship with the department of archives and history, the board of trustees and their staff. It’s a true partnership, and we do have absolutely wonderful, outstanding leaders on our campus who have a passion for preserving our history and the treasures of our past and working with our community.”

The MDAH honored the city of Starkville for the work of its historic preservation commission, its celebration of its 175th anniversary and its many landmarks on the National Register of Historic Places, among other initiatives. It also honored the Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau for its financial support of historic preservation. Jeremiah Dumas, Ward 5 alderman and past CVB chairman, said the city places a high value on historic preservation because of the precedent historic buildings set for more current development.

“We’re doing that with our historic neighborhoods right now, because we’ve seen tremendous increases in interest in our historic neighborhoods,” Dumas said. “What (the architects of those neighborhoods) did in the 1940s is exactly what we’re trying to replicate now. (These neighborhoods are) walkable, the homes are of proper size (and) they’re not these gargantuan houses. They’re something that are highly profitable from a marketing standpoint that we hope to really embrace.”

Jennifer Gregory, SMSA manager and CVB chief operations officer, said much progress has been made in recent years to preserve Starkville’s historic buildings. She said downtown Starkville recently joining the National Register of Historic Places has helped with building renovation and developer attraction, and she is grateful to such leaders as past CVB chair Michelle Jones for making this progress possible.

“It’s just an honor to be recognized by the MDAH,” Gregory said. “We’re so pleased that they chose Starkville for their annual board meeting, and it’s just a pleasure to work with this group and it’s quite an honor to be recognized by them for our efforts. We look forward to a long relationship with them in the future.”

Jack Garner, a member of MDAH’s board of trustees, said the proclamations issued Thursday were a small gesture to recognize large efforts made to preserve history in Starkville on a regular basis. He said he greatly enjoyed a tour of MSU’s historic resources the board took Thursday before the ceremony.

“One of the great things that the board gets to do each year is to visit a different community in Mississippi so we can really see historic preservation and the kind of efforts we have seen today in Starkville,” Garner said. “I have been on this board for (about) 15 years, and this is my first trip as a board member. It’s been a great day, and I could not have been more impressed with what I’ve seen in Starkville and on the campus of MSU.”

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