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Delta Blues Museum Celebrates Its 40th Year

Clarksdale, Mississippi, United States
An artist's rendering of new exhibits, to be unveiled in 2019 at Delta Blues Museum

Mississippi's first music museum reaching global audiences in new ways throughout milestone year

Mississippi's oldest music museum and the world's first museum dedicated to the art form known as "the blues," the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year, with events and programming beginning this month and extending throughout 2019.

On January 30th, the public is invited to a special anniversary party at the Museum , complete with complimentary cake and refreshments as well as live music from the award-winning Delta Blues Museum student band and musical guests from around the Delta. Performances will begin at 5PM and will feature--

  • Delta Blues Museum Band
  • Leflore County High School Choir (Itta Bena, MS)
  • Ruleville Central High School Choir (Ruleville, MS)
  • Coahoma Community College Choir (Clarksdale, MS)
  • Merritt Junior High School Marching Band (Indianola, MS)
  • Madison Palmer High School Marching Band (Marks, MS)

Museum Director Shelley Ritter says the Museum looks to reach an even wider audience worldwide in its anniversary year with the premiere of "40 Years of the Delta Blues Museum", a film retrospective directed by Mississippi filmmaker Coop Cooper. The film will focus on the history of the Museum--from the initial vision of Sid Graves, Director of the Clarksdale Carnegie Public Library, to how it has grown into a cultural touchtone for the community and has become one of the most impressive and significant tourist destinations in the state. It will also focus on what the Museum has done for the local community, both economically and culturally. Funding for the film was made possible through support provided by the National Park Service through Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area Partnership, Inc. Museum patrons can look forward to a sneak-preview screening to be held later this Spring.

In addition, thanks to funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Delta Regional Authority and Friends of the Delta Blues Museum, installation of the Museum's first phase of long-awaited new exhibits has begun. Created by Louisville, KY-based Solid Light, Inc., the new exhibits explore Clarksdale's New World District, juke joints, Alan Lomax's first recording of Muddy Waters, early blues radio programs and the last great migration of Delta artists northward--and how all those factors impacted the music the world continues to enjoy today. Ritter expects the installation process to wrap up in the coming months, with a special unveiling event to follow later this year . "Last year, we received visitors from nearly every state in the U.S. and from 34 countries around the world," offers Ritter. "With our new exhibits and new media, we hope to attract even more blues fans in our 40th year, to continue our mission to share the history and heritage of this important American art form with generations to come."Of the Museum's milestone, many notable friends are offering their own congratulatory messages:

"The Delta Blues Museum has brought national notoriety to our city. I'm proud to congratulate Shelley Ritter and her entire staff on 40 years of service to Clarksdale, the 'Home of the Blues.' The Museum is indeed valuable in dedicating time to our youth and to preserving the culture of our city and of the entire Mississippi Delta. For this, we again say, 'thank you.'" - Clarksdale Mayor Chuck Espy

"Blues heritage is deeply rooted in Mississippi, especially in the history of Clarksdale and Coahoma County. This important musical heritage is recognized and revered internationally--and in 1979, the Delta Blues Museum became the world's first museum devoted entirely to this music. I am proud of the Museum's 40 years of service, and as a Mississippian, I'm even prouder that the Delta Blues Museum is known throughout the world, as evidenced everyday in the diversity of its visitors." - State Representative Orlando Paden

"I appreciate the education and exposure that Delta Blues Museum has offered Clarksdale, the Mississippi Delta and the state as a whole as it relates to the Blues and all that this genre entails. I look forward to celebrating the first 40 years as we look to the future of this dynamic and epic institution. If you haven't visited it, you should. If you haven't supported it, think about doing that, too. Congratulations to Shelley, her board and the Clarksdale/Coahoma community for a job well done." - State Senator Robert L. Jackson

"I love the Delta Blues Museum. Everybody I've met who has visited loves it. It's the kind of place you want to keep going back to again and again. It's important for Clarksdale. It's important for Mississippi. It's important for the South. It's important for America. It's important for American music, in general, and for the Blues, in particular. Historically as in present-day, it's healthy for the community. It has a wonderful music school which has produced world-famous and highly respected musicians. A gift to the world!" - Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame bluesman Charlie Musselwhite

A Look Back: Delta Blues Museum Historical Highlights

January 30, 1979 - Carnegie Library Board of Trustees creates the Delta Blues Museum in the Myrtle Hall Branch of the library. Sid Graves is the founding director. The Delta Blues Museum is the world's first museum devoted entirely to blues.

1981 - Delta Blues Museum moves from Myrtle Hall to 114 Delta Avenue, inside the main library branch.

1996 - Muddy Waters' cabin from Stovall Plantation is moved by House of Blues to begin a world tour.

1988 - ZZTop unveils the Muddywood Guitar at Carnegie Public Library for its Hard Rock Café world tour.

1999 - Delta Blues Museum moves from the Carnegie Public Library to its current location in the renovated freight depot at #1 Blues Alley. Recognized with a National Governors Association Award for Distinguished Service.

2000 - Delta Blues Museum Band under the Direction of Mr. Johnnie Billington travels to the White House to perform for President Bill Clinton. President Bill Clinton later met privately with each person in the Museum delegation.

2001 - Muddy Waters' Cabin returns to Clarksdale and is installed in the Delta Blues Museum.

2003 - Congress declares "Year of the Blues." Delta Blues Museum is part of the celebration committee. Governor Ronnie Musgrove creates the Mississippi Blues Commission.

2009 - Delta Blues Museum receives a Gold Award from the Southeastern Museums Conference for outstanding design and content on DBM website and an Honorable Mention for the design of the "Rhythm & Roots" exhibit invitation.

2012 - The Delta Blues Museum completes a 7300 sq. ft. addition to the depot, named the "Muddy Waters' Wing," and receives"Delta Best" award in recognition of outstanding contribution in tourism.

2013 - Delta Blues Museum is one of five museums in the nation to receive a National Medal for Museum and Library Service, our nation's highest honor for museums. First Lady Michelle Obama presented the award in the East Wing of the White House. Delta Blues Museum receives a Mississippi Blues Trail Marker. The Museum additionally receives international acclaim and is added to the Best in Heritage Excellence Club, Dubrovnik, Croatia. The Museum also receives a Partnership Award from the Mississippi Delta Chapter of The Links, Incorporated. Delta Blues Museum is bestowed a Partnership Award from W.A. Higgins Academy of Arts & International Studies and receives a Citation from AIA Mississippi for the Muddy Waters Addition.

2014 - Delta Blues Museum's Arts & Education Program is one of twelve youth programs recognized with a National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Award and one of two programs selected to perform at the ceremony. First Lady Michelle Obama presented the award in the East Wing of the White House. Delta Blues Museum is also recognized as a Great River Road Interpretive Center.

2015 - The Museum is awarded a Certificate of Excellence by Trip Advisor.

2019 - Delta Blues Museum celebrates its 40th Anniversary.

About Delta Blues Museum

Established in 1979 by the Carnegie Public Library Board of Trustees and re-organized as a stand-alone museum in 1999, the Delta Blues Museum is Mississippi's oldest music museum and the nation's first museum dedicated to the American art form known as the Blues. A 2013 recipient of the IMLS National Medal for Museum and Library Services--the nation's highest honor for museum and library service to the community--and a 2014 winner of the National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Award, the Delta Blues Museum is dedicated to creating a welcoming place where visitors find meaning, value and perspective by exploring the history and heritage of the unique American musical art form, the Blues. The Museum is honored to be a Great River Road Interpretive Center.

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