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Growing the Delta and North Mississippi Using our Culture

On the cover of the Delta Business Journal that our company publishes, we recently featured blues icon Robert Johnson. We received more response from this article than any article we have ever published in the DBJ during our 14-year run.

We were stunned. This large response underscored to me the importance of blues music and the history of our great region that is so interesting to the us and the rest of the world. From the Delta to the hills of Oxford and Holly Springs, some incredible blues music has been created.

And, while we should all be thankful for our blues heritage and blues musuems here in the Delta and north Mississippi that help bring in our blues tourists, one small museum that is not specifically blues-based, but also plays a part in luring tourists to the Delta region is the Museum of the Mississippi Delta in Greenwood, previously called Cottonlandia.

A couple of weeks ago, I invited the museum’s director, Cheryl Taylor to speak to my Rotary Club in Cleveland. A native of Hattiesburg, Taylor has been the Executive Director of the museum for the past four years. Taylor’s career includes being an archaeologist with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and working in museums in Nevada, Arizona, and Indiana. Taylor has served on museum boards at the state and national levels. She is also an editor and a writer and is currently researching the life of Greenwood Leflore.

For years, the museum’s exhibits remained virtually unchanged and due mostly to the leadership of Taylor and her vision to take things to the next level, the name of Cottonlandia changed to The Museum of the Mississippi Delta in order to expand their scope of what visitors can see. The museum contains one of the largest collections of Native American artifacts in the South as well as displays pertaining to the Delta’s local history of agriculture, military, animals, and other things.

Currently, the museum is displaying a special exhibit called War Comes to the Mississippi Delta that explores the Delta’s role in the Civil War. Civil War items such as guns, swords, clothing, and other items are now on display. The museum is also holding lectures by Civil War scholars and on March 8th and 9th, an encampment will take place outside of Greenwood with re-eanctors who will set up a Civil War camp site, wear period clothing, and fire a cannon that was used at Fort Pemberton.

As I sat and listened to Taylor’s talk, it confirmed to me that while we should promote our blues tourism in North Mississippi, our region of the state has so many other parts of history that need promoting as well in order to grow and expand our tourism efforts.

Let’s grow our tourism numbers in any way we possibly can because we have so much to offer in our region that the remainder of the state does not. As for my region of Mississippi, the Delta will always be one of the leading agricultural centers on the globe and that brings in some pretty tall dollars.

Manufacturing continues to play a vital role in our well being, however the chances of the Delta luring a Toyota or Nissan plant are pretty slim. In my view, focusing on expanding our existing businesses and industry is of great importance and should be our long-term strategy. However, tourism must figure into this strategy and be accepted by all of our political and business leaders because this “industry” is expanding with very little marketing efforts in place.

We must do more to market the Delta to the world and we should tip our hat to people like Cheryl Taylor at The Museum of the Delta in Greenwood for thinking out of the box a little and for bringing new things to her museum and thus the Delta.

Let’s keep this conversation going.

Scott Coopwood, a seventh generation Deltan, lives in Cleveland, Mississippi, with his wife Cindy and their three children. Scott is the publisher and owner of Delta Magazine, one of the South’s leading lifestyle publications, the Delta Business Journal, the first business publication in the Mississippi Delta; and Cleveland’s weekly newspaper, The Cleveland Current .

Email Scott Coopwood at scott@coopwood.net

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