HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Over 700 pieces of art were rescued from William Carey University after the Jan. 21 tornado. The building on Tuscan Avenue was destroyed after the roof was blown off, and the Lucile Parker Gallery was a part of that building.
"The roof was completely blown off. There was a vault which contained close to 600 works inside," said Ed Ford, director of the Lucile Parker Gallery.
The Lauren Rodgers Museum of Art in Laurel stepped in to help with recovery efforts.
"(The museum) knew once the tornado hit, we needed to do something," said George Bassi, executive director of the museum.
"We attempted to contact the university and luckily they were able to get in touch with us that Saturday afternoon," Bassi said.
Just hours after the storm, the museum helped the school save over 200 pieces of art, and by the end of the week, the museum was able to save over 500 more pieces from the Lucile Parker Gallery and the Sarah Gillespie collection.
This was not the first time the museum has stepped in to help after a tragedy. In 2005, the museum saved most of the artwork after Hurricane Katrina hit the William Carey campus on the Gulf Coast. Some of those pieces were saved again after last month's tornado.
"Ten days after Hurricane Katrina, we were able to help the Sarah Gillespie collection on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Some of the collection had been sitting in the hot gallery for quite a while, so this our second time handling this collection with the university," Bassi said.
Bassi, Ford and volunteer groups had to walk through debris to get to the gallery. They were not allowed inside the gallery because the building was still unstable.
"It took us two hours to load everything up. We were not allowed to go inside the building because the fire marshal deemed only those approved by the insurance company to go inside," Bassi said.
Ford said, "We went into the vault, picking out what we thought was the most important pieces to save because we knew the building was unstable and could fall down at any moment."
The pieces have since been moved from the Lauren Rodgers museum, and are now being housed in a building in downtown Hattiesburg.