Delta Blues Museum Awarded $1.5 M Grant
The Mississippi Transportation Commission recently approved
a grant to the Delta Blues Museum for more than $1.5 million.
The money will be used for expansion of the former railroad
depot in which the blues museum has been housed since
1999. This expansion will mean an addition of at least
2,700 square feet to the blues museum for new permanent
educational exhibits. Delta Blues Museum director Shelley
Ritter said the expansion project has been in the works
since before her arrival at the museum in July 2003."There
was talk of [expansion] prior to my getting here, but
we've been working to bring the existing museum up to
certain standards before expanding," Ritter said.
"It was a direction from the [Delta Blues Museum]
Board [of Trustees]. They wanted to do this expansion,
and I've been working towards it since I've been here."
Ritter said that part of the addition will probably be devoted to housing the Muddy Waters cabin. The full cabin has never been on display in the museum, because the existing gallery room is not tall enough to house some of the cabin's timbers.
Before the museum could file for the grant, it had to first receive permission from Clarksdale's mayor and board of commissioners. Mayor Henry Espy said he was more than happy to support the request."I think this grant is going to be excellent for the Delta Blues Museum and for Clarksdale as a whole," Espy said. "Clarksdale is the birthplace and home of the blues and, as a town, we should do anything we can to promote that." Also aiding the museum in its campaign for the grant were 25th District Rep. John Mayo, 26th District Rep. Chuck Espy and Senator Robert Jackson, D-Marks, who all wrote letters to the Mississippi Department of Transportation in support of the museum. Ritter says the Mississippi Arts Commission has also been supportive in the plans for the expansion.
The museum will develop a schedule for the expansion once the paperwork with the Mississippi Department of Transportation is completed. According to the MDOT guidelines, construction can begin no later than September 2009. "We hope we can begin sooner than that, but there's a lot of planning phases we will have to go through before that," Ritter says. "All the drawings and design development has to be done, so we're not ready to go just yet." Ritter said she hopes the addition will prove a significant enhancement to the blues museum.
"I think the museum is going to be empowered to realize its potential," she said. "We're finally going to have some resources to really honor the artists and give them what they deserve." The Delta Blues Museum was founded in 1979 by Sid Graves and the Carnegie Public Library Board of Trustees and is Mississippi's oldest music museum. The building currently housing the museum at 1 Blues Alley was built in 1918 to serve as the freight depot for the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad. It is approximately 12,000 square feet, five thousand of which are devoted to exhibits.
To learn more about the Delta Blues Museum and its expansion
plan, visit www.deltabluesmuseum.org.
© Clarksdale Press Register 2007