STARKVILLE — The Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum is more than a house filled with artifacts.
With the help of the Mississippi State University”s Department of Landscape Architecture and nearly $18,000 in donations, the museum has transformed into a multi-purpose social facility.
The museum”s exterior has been revitalized through sustainable landscapes that solve a long-term drainage issue and create recreation space to host future events.
The museum, located at the corner of Fellowship Street and Russell Street, is now an ideal locale to host class reunions and other community interest events, Joan Wilson, chair of the museum”s board of directors said.
The museum showed the movie “Night at the Museum” on the front porch when the third of five renovation phases was completed recently.
Friday, a day when the museum is normally closed, Wilson and volunteers gave a tour to a youth group from Peter”s Rock Temple Church of God in Christ.
“We can be a community interest,” said Wilson. “We”ve already seen an increase of walk-ins. With Russell Street about to become a major hub (pending CottonMill progress), it certainly is important for the museum to be attractive.”
The museum”s outdoor construction was done by students in MSU”s landscape architecture classes led by associate professors Wayne Wilkerson and Cory Gallo, both of whom developed a plan to solve the museum”s drainage issue.
Wilkerson and Gallo developed a long-term solution for stormwater management through water harvesting and infiltration, which includes a sand-filtration system.
“We came up with a plan to turn the landscape into an educational unit, so homeowners have the opportunity to learn how to implement similar systems into their own landscapes,” Wilkerson said.
Local Master Gardeners helped come up with a plant palette and assisted Gallo”s Construction II classes with landscape installation.
The multi-year project began in 2009 with a five-phase plan that will be completed in spring 2012.
The museum building, which was built in the 1800s, was threatened with flooding by stormwater collecting under the building.
The rain garden on the side of the building was the first phase, which reduced runoff water to “just a trickle.”
Phase 2 was the construction of a wooden sand filter box that drastically reduced the amount of water that runs under the building.
Phase 3, which was recently completed, was the renovation of the front porch, which had become a safety concern, Wilson said.
The next phase, which will be completed this fall, will include the installation of cisterns to harvest rainwater for use in the landscape. The team will also provide signs to be used in the garden that will offer explanations of the different sustainable landscaping systems.
A gazebo is in the works for the final phase in the spring.
Friends of the Museum, a fundraising group, has raised money to paint the exterior of the building.
“The city has helped provide labor and necessary equipment,” Gallo said. “This project wouldn”t be possible without the help of the city of Starkville.”
Through the work of Gallo”s students, the cost of the project has been relatively cheap, Wilson said.
“We”ve done about $60,000 work for $18,000,” Wilson said. “It”s totally amazing to watch it all happen. I keep thinking we are so lucky to have the MSU expertise and their willingness to do it. Cory will tell you, this is a wonderful experience for the students who get to build and design real time.”
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