Mississippi Department of Archives and History to Strengthen Religion Programs with Support of $2.5 Million Lilly Endowment Grant

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. 

Through the grant, the Two Mississippi Museums will begin offering free group tours this summer to faith-affiliated communities in Mississippi—groups who attend churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, house churches, and more. 

“We are grateful to Lilly Endowment for this major support,” said Katie Blount, MDAH director. “The foundation’s generosity will help more Mississippians experience these museums. Building an endowment to underwrite field trips for Mississippi students was paramount to our initial vision. With the recent passage of the five-year anniversary of the Two Museums, Lilly Endowment helps to build on that momentum and expand our educational outreach.”   

The Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum treat comprehensively the history of religion—from the spiritual beliefs of Native Americans to the conflicting religious convictions of slaveholders and enslaved people, to the leadership of people of faith during the Civil Rights Movement. 

Support from Lilly Endowment will enable MDAH to broaden its audiences and engage them in new and exciting ways. For example, MDAH will invest in capital improvements at Historic Jefferson College near Natchez and at the Huddleston Memorial Chapel at Natchez College, a historically Black college open from 1884 to 1989. In addition, the grant will make MDAH's archival collections related to religion more accessible to the public. 

“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 Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative began in 2019 with an initial group of eighteen grants. 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. 

 For more info call 601-576-6934, or email


Stories By The Fire

Join us for Stories By The Fire on Saturday, January 21, at 4:30 p.m. at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians. Emceed by Grand Village's historian Becky Anderson, this program will feature storytelling by Eli Langley of the Coushatta Tribe and Dan Isaac, a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw. A bonfire will also accompany this storytelling. For more information, email, or call 601-446-6502.

FedEx to Sponsor Free MLK Weekend at the Two Mississippi Museums

The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and Museum of Mississippi History will offer three days of free admission thanks to the support of FedEx. The museums will be free to the public in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Saturday, January 14, through Monday, January 16. 

 The Two Mississippi Museums will host MLK Night of Culture at 6 p.m. on Monday, January 16, in the Craig H. Neilsen Auditorium of the Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson. This year’s theme, inspired by the Black Empowerment gallery in the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, celebrates the unity and determination of Black Mississippians demanding their civil rights from 1965 to the mid-1970s, urged on by successes such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The evening will feature performances exploring how African Americans persevered through the turmoil of racial violence, and publicly demanded their rights as American citizens through boycotts, marches, and protests organized across Mississippi.   

 “FedEx is honored to celebrate the legacy and values of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through our continued support of the Two Mississippi Museums,” said Rose Flenorl, manager of Global Citizenship at FedEx Services. "We are proud to help visitors connect with Dr. King’s legacy, and leave inspired to drive positive changes of their own.” 

 “We are grateful to FedEx for their continued support of our Martin Luther King Jr. celebration,” said Katie Blount, director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. “Welcoming the public into the museums as guests of FedEx is a wonderful way to honor this important holiday.” 

 The Two Mississippi Museums will also host a food drive throughout the free weekend to benefit Stewpot Community Services located in Jackson. 

 Dr. King’s involvement in Mississippi included visiting Greenwood in support of Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964, testifying in support of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) during the 1964 Democratic National Convention, and continuing James Meredith’s March Against Fear following the assassination attempt against Meredith in 1966.  

 For more information, call 601-576-6850 or email  


MDAH Windsor Ruins Stabilization Project Update

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) project to stabilize the Windsor Ruins site will continue through the spring of 2023. More than a century of destructive exposure to the elements has caused significant erosion to the 45-foot-tall Corinthian columns and fracturing of cast iron capitals on the columns.  

The stabilization project includes the repointing of masonry, infilling voids in the columns with new masonry, pinning and securing the failing stucco finish, and conservation treatments to the cast iron capitals. The masonry and stucco stabilization are 85 percent complete, with the capital conservation remaining to be completed. Temporary fencing has been erected to protect visitors at the site from falling debris, while repairs continue for the remaining twenty-three full columns and five partial columns. 

Windsor Plantation was constructed for planter Smith Coffee Daniell II from 1859 to 1861. One of the largest private residences in Mississippi before the Civil War, the mansion originally featured twenty-nine Corinthian columns. The mansion was designed in an eclectic mix of Greek, Italianate, and Gothic architectural styles by David Shroder and artisans from New England and Europe, and construction labor was primarily completed by enslaved people. It was believed that some of the missing columns and components were lost during the 1890 fire that destroyed the residence. A 2017 study of the site showed that four of the missing columns were still standing as late as 1910.  

“To our knowledge, a project to stabilize a ruin like this has not been attempted at this scale in the United States,” said MDAH chief of preservation Mingo Tingle. “MDAH staff, WFT Architects and architectural conservator, George Fore, have worked seamlessly with Cangelosi Ward General Contractors, and United Restoration & Preservation, Inc. to address the stabilization process and specific conservation needs of the Windsor Ruins.” 

Although this project has been developing for years, this is considered an emergency stabilization. There are larger initiatives that involve telling a much broader story of the region, including new interpretation at Windsor.  

“The site serves as a tangible and symbolic connection to the cultural, economic, and political environment of mid-to late-nineteenth century rural Mississippi,” said Barry White MDAH's director of historic preservation. “Once the stabilization project is completed MDAH plans to update interpretive signage to reflect to site’s broader significance in history regarding pre-contact, slavery, the Civil War, sharecropping, and the evolution of the preservation movement.” 

MDAH launched a social media campaign in 2019 seeking photographs of the Windsor Ruins site, taken between 1942 and 1971, to determine when the last missing column was lost. MDAH staff used the public’s photo submissions to help establish a timeline of past column collapses and predict when future collapses may occur. It was determined that the last column collapse occurred in the early to mid-1960s. MDAH commissioned architectural conservator George Fore also found evidence relating to the timeline of column integrity during the period of public outreach. 

Family photos submitted by Ruthie Drake Fahey, a native of Port Gibson, were especially helpful having been taken only a decade after the Windsor mansion fire. “Fahey’s family photos, which were likely taken circa 1900, contain what may be the oldest known photos of the site,” said Tingle. 

Built near the town of Bruinsburg, in Claiborne County, the Windsor Ruins site is located near the section of the Mississippi River where Union Army General Ulysses S. Grant directed soldiers to cross the river from Louisiana in their quest to capture Vicksburg. Windsor Ruins was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, acquired by MDAH in 1974, and designated a Mississippi Landmark in 1985. 

See Tingle discuss stage 1 stabilization work currently underway at Windsor Ruins in this MDAH video

Getting to Windsor Ruins: From U.S. Hwy 61 north of Lorman, take the Alcorn State University exit and proceed west on Hwy 552. Go past the Alcorn entrance and continue west and then north on 552. There are Windsor Ruins signs along the way. The entrance to Windsor Ruins is on the right about 3 miles past the Alcorn entrance. 

For more information, call 601-576-6850, or email


MDAH Closures for Christmas and New Years

MDAH offices and archives library will be closed Friday, December 23 to Monday, December 26. All museum sites will close at 2 p.m. on Saturday, December 24, and reopen on Tuesday, December 27.

The archives library will be closed on Saturday, December 31, and all museums will close at 2 p.m. on Saturday, December 31, and reopen on Tuesday, January 3. MDAH offices will also be closed on Monday, January 2.

Visit for more information about our one-of-a-kind museums, historical sites and cultural attractions throughout the state. Explore our wide ranging Digital Archives here


 Two Mississippi Museum Store Holiday Open House

The Mississippi Museum store will host a Holiday Open House at 11 a.m. on Saturday, December 3, to celebrate the upcoming holiday season.  The event is free to the public. There will be a 10 percent discount on all merchandise during the open house, and museum members will receive a 20 percent discount on store items. 

“We’re excited to host this holiday open house because this will create a wonderful mix of food, conversation, and relationship building right in the heart of our two museums,” said Pamela D.C. Junior, director of the Two Mississippi Museums.

The event will feature a complimentary lunch prepared by Chef Nick Wallace and will include some familiar favorites from the Nissan Cafe by Nick Wallace such as Mississippi gumbo and shrimp and grits. Wallace will also prepare a selection of finger foods for visitors to sample from 2 to 4 p.m.

Other activities include food and beverage samplings from Mississippi vendors, artist and baker meet-and-greet opportunities, light music, and complimentary gift packaging.  

The Mississippi Museum Store offers one of the state’s finest collections of folk art, local handmade crafts, pottery, jewelry, and books by and about Mississippians. Find unique holiday gifts for everyone on your list this year at the Mississippi Museum Store.

Admission to the museums is not required. The Mississippi Museum Store at the Two Mississippi Museums is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The museums are  free of charge on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. are located at 222 North Street in Jackson. For more information, email or call 601-576-6850 for more information. 


Researching Land Genealogy Workshop

Interested in learning how to research land records but could use some guidance or a refresher? Join us for the Researching Land Genealogy Workshop presented by MDAH reference librarian De’Niecechsi Layton at 10 a.m. on Saturday, December 17, at the William F. Winter Archives and History Building. Whether you are just beginning your research journey or are well into it, this workshop will guide you on how to examine and interpret different types of land records and where they can be located.


Be part of history. Volunteer with MDAH and help us preserve and connect Mississippi’s rich historic resources with people around the world.