#35 Delta Cultural Center

My name is Rebecca Elder and I would like to adopt the Delta Cultural Center.

The Depot at Delta Cultural Center (Image courtesy of joseph a via Flickr)

The Depot at Delta Cultural Center (Image courtesy of joseph a via Flickr)


Tell us a bit more about yourself

I’m a preservation consultant based in Austin, Texas. I’m trained as a book and paper conservator, but now work with libraries, museums and archives on extending the lives of their collections. In my spare time, I volunteer at our city animal shelter and knit like a fiend.

Tell us a bit more about your adopted museum
The Delta Cultural Center is in Helena, Arkansas, close to both the Mississippi and Tennesse borders. It concentrates on the history of the Arkansas Delta. There are two buildings. The old train depot houses exhibits on the Civil War in Arkansas, and the history of the Delta. The Vistor’s Center concentrates on the music of the Arkansas Delta, and also houses temporary exhibits. Admission is free, and the museum is open year-round. If you go on a weekday around noon, you can catch the King Biscuit Time radio show being broadcast from the museum’s radio studio. It’s the longest running daily blues radio show in the United States.

Why have you chosen to adopt this museum?
As a preservation consultant, I’ve seen my share of small museums, and the DCC is one of the ones that stands out. The restoration work on the depot is lovely, and the visitor’s center is also in a beautiful historic building. They also work very hard at preserving their collections. What draws me the most are the music collections and exhibits. They show this history of the Delta music—blues, gospel and rockabilly wonderfully, and showcase underappreciated artists. Their listening stations give you a chance to hear the music that goes along with the story that the museum tells. The DCC extends its mission by hosting events that go along with their mission, including the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival. Someday I’m going to make it to that one! And one of the most special memories of my career is being a special guest on King Biscuit Time. Sitting in the broadcast booth with Sunshine Sonny Payne (who has hosted the show for upwards of 50 years) made me feel like I was a tiny little part of music history.

Why would you recommend people visit?
I would recommend people visit to learn more about the rich history of the Arkansas Delta and its music. The museum is small enough to see both buildings in a few hours, and Helena is a lovely town to visit for a day. Children will enjoy the touch and feel aspects of the exhibit on the history of the Delta, and music lovers will enjoy seeing the handmade instruments and listening to the music on the listening station. If you’re traveling along Route 61, the Blues Highway, the DCC is a natural place to stop to learn about the hardships of being a blues musician in the first half of the century, and to gain a greater appreciation for the role of Arkansas (which often gets overshadowed by Tennessee and Louisiana) has in the development of American music. The temporary exhibits usually are photography and they’re gorgeous across a wide range of topics that illuminate Delta life. Plus, the staff are knowledgeable and generous with their knowledge about the content of the museum. How can you ask for more?

How would you sum up your museum in three words?
Music, history, radio

(Image source: joseph a on Flickr via Creative Commons)

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