Phase One: Save The Structure
This first phase began in 2002 when John Grisham donated the building and land to the Oxford-Lafayette County Heritage Foundation for restoration. By the third quarter of 2008, work that saved the building was completed. Work included a new wall structure, a new roof structure, reinforced towers, roughed- in plumbing, and the original brick facade being firmly attached to the wall structure with over 1,000 steel rod anchors and brackets. Funding came from a Department of Interior “Save America's Treasures” grant ($148,000), a Mississippi Community Heritage Preservation grant ($100,000), and local funds raised of $171,000.
Phase Two: complete Exterior and Begin Interior
The second phase began in the first quarter 2012 and was completed in the third quarter 2012. It finished restoring the building's exterior, including relaying and repointing of the brick façade, and installing windows and doors. On the inside, a central climate control system was installed along with plumbing and electrical, allowing insulation and sheet-rocking of the walls in this phase. Funding included a HUD Grant ($245,000), a second Mississippi Community Heritage Preservation Grant ($62,000), and matching funds by the City of Oxford ($16,000). Phase II total cost was $335,000.
Phase three: complete Interior and Install Landscape
The third phase was bid out in the third quarter 2012 and completed in the first and second quarters 2013. The entire cost is expected to be at least $450,000. Approximately $255,000 of the cost was drawn from the $500,000 HUD grant. This phase completed the building, landscaped the property, and constructed a storage/office building at the back of the lot where a parsonage once stood.
Phase four: Museum Exhibit
While community functions began to be held in the restored building at its completion in July 2013, the museum exhibit is being installed in two stages. Stage 1 will be completed in September 2013, consisting of:
- The history of the Burns Church building, including a short video.
- A preview presentation of the thematic African American history exhibit. Scholarship has begun to guide creation of Stage 2 of the exhibit in 2014.
- Displays on local African American history.
Stage 2 of the Burns-Belfry exhibit will be a graphic presentation (text and images) of African American history based on four major themes: Slavery, Emancipation, Jim Crow, and Civil Rights. Accompanying stories will be drawn from Oxford-Lafayette County, the North Mississippi Hills region, and across the state. Audio/visual elements will be offered on two interactive computer stations.
The exhibit is being mounted on or alongside the building’s facing side walls, keeping most of the floor space open for meetings, public programs, receptions, and other community activities.
In the future, the history of other major cultures in Oxford-Lafayette County, including the Chickasaw before their removal to Oklahoma and the early white settlers who followed them, will be developed for special exhibits. It is in the planning stages that associated exhibit materials will be made available online both on-site and off.