As a native Mississippian, you would think I would be well-versed in Mississippi’s rich history. However, because my family moved to Georgia when I was 6, perhaps you can forgive me for not knowing all there is to know about my home state. Recently, though, I had the pleasure to visit the Mississippi Delta region in the northwest corner of the state, and was thrilled to learn about the people, places and events that took place there. For instance, raise your hand if you knew Jim Henson was from Mississippi and the city of Leland is home to The Jim Henson Museum? Keep reading for more information on this and two of the Mississippi Delta’s other notable museums.
The Jim Henson Museum
I’ve been a fan of Kermit the Frog and the Muppets for most of my life, so I couldn’t wait to see Kermit’s birthplace. Admittedly, the museum was smaller than I expected, but its contents didn’t disappoint. As soon as you walk in, there’s Kermit sitting in his swamp, the sounds of “It’s Not Easy Being Green” playing in the background. On the walls, you’ll find photos of Jim Henson through the years, as well as a historical account of Henson’s career.
For example, who knew that Henson crafted Kermit in 1955 using a piece fabric from one of his mother’s old coats and a split ping pong ball? Now this beloved character is loved the world over. Proof of that can be found in one of the adjoining rooms that contain a wealth of Muppets collectibles. Dolls, stuffed animals, figurines, games, lunchboxes, Happy Meal toys (yes, I have these at home!) and more that bring back memories of my childhood.
My favorite display, though, was the life-size Kermit sitting on the bench. Visitors are welcome to take a seat next to Kermit for a photo opp. It’s the perfect souvenir after visiting with this lifelong friend.
B.B. King Museum & Delta Interpretive Center
At the turn of the 19th century, the Mississippi Delta gave birth to a new genre of music – the blues – and, in 1925, Berclair, Miss., saw the birth of a baby boy who would become one of the greatest ambassadors for the blues: Riley B. “B.B.” King. The B.B. King Museum & Delta Interpretive Center documents the life of King from his earliest childhood, tracing his career path and revealing the footprint he left not only on the blues but also on the entire musical community.
While all of the exhibits are extremely well done, my favorites are those featuring King sharing firsthand his impressions, emotions and memories of finding his way as a blues musician. Some are through video interviews while others are recordings that play as you peruse an exhibit, like sitting in a replica of King’s tour bus. I also loved seeing the exhibit of King’s home recording studio.
The sheer amount of memorabilia – photographs, sheet music, clothing, Grammy awards and, of course, his guitar Lucille – was overwhelming, and I would have needed many more days to read and see it all in detail. It was fun to see, though, a tie to The Jim Henson Museum; King performed on “Sesame Street” about the letter of the day – yep, you guessed it: “B.”
Martin & Sue King Railroad Heritage Museum
Along with my 6-year-old son, I am a big fan of trains, so when I stepped into the Martin & Sue King Railroad Heritage Museum, I was enthralled. The centerpiece of the museum is the “O” gauge model railroad that spans a 70-foot-by-17-foot landscape representing a railroad era between the 1940s and the 1960s. As the train travels through small towns, passing the drive-in movie theater and ducking into tunnels, it’s easy to get caught up in the journey.
Seeking to preserve and promote the history and the culture of the railroad and its impact on Cleveland, Bolivar County and the Delta region, the museum does this through the many railroad artifacts that recall the history of railroading. To get the kids involved, there’s a new scavenger hunt each month challenging children to find a number of items on the model train landscape.
This is a fun, yet educational museum where I could have spent much more time than the short visit I had, and I look forward to returning again, only this time I’m bringing my kids. I just know they’ll love this site as much as I do.
Disclosure: Karon visited these museums as a guest of each respective museum as part of a formal press trip for media. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author.