Exploring the Cultural Offerings of Northeastern Mississippi Museums

Northeastern Mississippi is home to a variety of museums that offer visitors a unique glimpse into the history and culture of the region. From the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles to the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, there is something for everyone to explore. The B. B.

King Museum in Indianola is dedicated to the life and legacy of the late “King of the Blues”. Visitors can explore thousands of artifacts, from B. King's tour bus to his acting attire, and watch films and interactive exhibits that trace his life from cotton fields and Delta Juke venues to the national stage. The museum experience begins in a movie theater with an introduction to the region and an overview of King's early years, followed by a gallery dedicated to the 1930s, which shares his experiences as a sharecropper and tractor driver.

The next room focuses on Memphis in the 1950s, where King hosted a radio show, performed in nightclubs, and recorded iconic songs. The final exhibition, Artist to Icon, chronicles King's tour of the “Chitlin' Circuit” and his subsequent transformation into a household name. At the Memorial Courtyard, visitors can pay their respects to King, who chose the museum as his final resting place. Clarksdale is home to the Delta Blues Museum, the world's first museum dedicated to this art form. Located in a historic railroad depot from 1918, the museum contains iconic artifacts such as a personalized nine-string guitar played by Big Joe Williams, a harmonica signed by harp master Charlie Musselwhite, and a display case dedicated to Big Mama Thornton.

The museum's distinctive attraction is the reconstructed childhood home of Muddy Waters, which contains plaques that detail his life and a “Muddywood” guitar built by the rock band ZZ with floorboards recovered from the original Muddy Waters cabin. The Art Garden offers visitors the opportunity to appreciate outdoor art with fountains, flower beds, and facilities ranging from a glass bottle orchard to a sculpture in the shape of a brick wheel. The Biloxi Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum pays homage to Biloxi's maritime history with artifacts related to shrimp fishing, oyster fishing, charter fishing, net making, blacksmithing, and ship building. Items on display include an automatic shrimp peeling machine from 1979, historic oyster casks, and old photographs of the Biloxi fishing industry. For an additional fee, visitors can book a day of sailing or rent one of two authentic replicas of Biloxi 65-foot double-mast gulets. Designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, the Ohr-O'Keefe Art Museum celebrates the legacy of George Ohr, who defied aesthetic conventions with his flower pots by adding twisted handles, warped shapes, and wrinkled edges.

More than 200 pieces of his ceramics are on display on a rotating basis throughout the museum alongside pieces by artists and ceramists that exemplify Ohr's innovative spirit. Visitors can view exhibits in four separate buildings and also enter into a reconstruction of the late 19th century home of emancipated slave Pleasant Reed. The Mississippi Museum of Art, located in Downtown Jackson Cultural District, houses the largest art collection in the state. In one room you can find police photos of people arrested in the name of civil rights while in other parts names of known victims of lynching in Mississippi stand out. In its final gallery “Reflections” visitors are invited to record and share their memories of Mississippi. The Mississippi Liberty and Blues Trails come together to form what is known as the largest museum in the state.

Here visitors can lift a basket full of dirt to see how Native Americans built their huge embankments; see some of the first photographs taken in Mississippi; hear stories about Mississippi businessmen who bottled Coca-Cola for the first time; admire baseball gloves owned by Willie Mitchell; and much more. One of most valuable efforts currently being made with these new museums is that all ninth-grade Mississippi students visit them every year. This way they can learn about their state's history and culture while having fun at the same time.

Kevin Gilstad
Kevin Gilstad

Wannabe reader. Hardcore zombie geek. Beer ninja. Total twitter maven. Wannabe zombie enthusiast. Proud music lover.