While talking with a group recently, I was asked, “What are the benefits of becoming a member of the Mississippi Heritage Trust?” My answer was, ”You get to be a part of the statewide network of like-minded people who are working to save the places that matter in their communities.” I have pondered my response, wondering if perhaps that person was expecting a fancy tote bag or a MHT t-shirt. But, I do sincerely believe that, despite the fun perks that sometimes come with MHT membership, the best gift of all is the chance to have a voice in preservation work in Mississippi.
I asked my friend Susan Higgs, vice president for the Mississippi Heritage Trust, why she is willing to give her time to the cause of historic preservation in Mississippi. Susan replied:
Our historical architecture makes our communities unique. Why do people choose to visit or live in certain communities? Not because it is the same as everywhere else. We are drawn to places because of their beauty and uniqueness. When my husband and I were deciding whether or not to move to Hattiesburg from Virginia six years ago, two things in particular stood out-the beauty of the reemerging downtown area and Robert St. John’s Crab and Corn Bisque. If Hattiesburg had been just a city of strip malls, I don’t know that I would have been inclined to move. Preservation of our historic sites helps communities to thrive and entices us to get out and enjoy our cities and towns.
Last month, preservation partners around the state treated Mississippi Heritage Trust members to free and discounted tours of some very special places, including the Biloxi Lighthouse, Rowan Oak, Mississippi Delta Blues Museum, Old Depot Museum, Merrehope, the Frank W. Williams Home and Jimmie Rodgers Museum. Over thirty people joined or renewed their membership in August-thank you everyone!
While it is tremendously rewarding to see the results of many years of hard work at places like Rowan Oak and Old Depot Museum, I am not sure folks sent in their dues just to get to climb the 65 steps of the Biloxi Lighthouse for the beautiful view of the Gulf. As Susan put it, “MHT is important because it supports those Mississippians who want to save our historical properties. It is a resource and a champion for Mississippi’s preservationists.” Well said!
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